Terrifying tales of malevolent water spirits lurking beneath the surface of ponds, lakes and rivers, patiently laying in wait for a likely victim are familiar throughout the Land.
Jinny Greenteeth is known the length and breadth of Lancashire as the water witch just waiting to devour the soul of any defiant child who has wandered from the safety of their parent’s side too close to the waters edge. The original Jinny is reputed to haunt the beautiful St James’ gardens, the sunken, secluded former cemetery in Liverpool which was once a sandstone quarry.
But it is to Waddow Hall, nr Clitheroe, Lancashire we are heading for our eerie encounter today. The 17th century grade ll listed building is now used as an activity centre and conference venue . . . but it has a far more sinister past!
On the bank of the River Ribble, beside an ancient spring, within the resplendent grounds of the Hall stands an isolated, headless statue assumed to be the image of either St Margaret or St Helen relocated from Whalley Abbey during the reformation. This statue is also believed to serve as a memorial marker for an unfortunate young woman named Peg O’Nell.
According to legend, the lovely young Peg arrived in Liverpool from her native Ireland in search of employment. It was there she met John Weddell a wealthy textile baron and owner of Waddow Hall.
Now John had an eye for the ladies and couldn’t resist this Irish colleen so immediately offered her the job of live-in maid at his estate.
Mrs Weddell didn’t find her new employee quite as enchanting as her errant spouse so obviously did, therefore she became a formidable mistress to the girl. Ruling her new servant with a rod of iron, spurred on by her own insecurities and fears, her behaviour towards the poor wretch became uncharitable and spiteful.
Peg’s maltreatment cast a shadow over the whole household, but still her torment continued. One winters evening as Peg followed orders (given more out of spite than necessity) to draw water from the river the lady of the house was heard to call out after her “I hope you break your neck and die.”
. . . and unfortunately she did. For no sooner had the curse escaped her lips Peg lost her footing on the slippery Hipping Stones and plummeted into the turbulent waters!
The following morning her lifeless body was discovered in the shallows, her neck broken.
In remembrance of their colleague the household moved a statue from the house and placed it near the waters edge to commemorate Peg’s demise.
Several families subsequently resided at Waddow Hall, but the one thing they all had in common was the unexplainable phenomena they bore witness to: Footsteps echoed around empty rooms, the clash and clang of pots and pans was a regular aural assault, and perhaps most terrifying of all were the sightings of a frail young maiden shuffling along the corridors.
After yet another change of hands, the property was inhabited by the Starkey family. Mrs Starkey experienced a run of bad luck which she attributed to Peg and at the end of her tether she ordered the statue by the well to be beheaded!
After the simulacrum’s decapitation the strange occurrences within the Hall abated.
The raging waters of the Ribble, by Brungerly Bridge are now said to claim a soul every seven years. If a pheasant, chicken or family dog don’t fall foul of the malison then the river will take its revenge on anyone unlucky enough to be passing by.