If you were to visit the picturesque village of Chipping in the postcard pretty Ribble Valley you would be forgiven for thinking you had stepped back in time. Chipping can boast the oldest shop in the United Kingdom (which dates back to 1668) The grade ll listed Woolfen Hall, made from slobbered rubble, three almshouses dated around the late 17th century and an imposing 16th century church which is thought to be a rebuild of a 13th century edifice.
Situated beside the Forest of Bowland the ancient and secluded parish dates back hundreds of years, heralding a mention in the Domesday Book, where it was listed as ‘Chippenden’, which translates as market place.
Today, I’d like to take you up the steep stone steps of The Sun Inn, situated at no. 2 Windy street, to regale you with a tale of heartbreak and haunting!
In the summer of 1835 a pleasing young lass named Elizabeth (Lizzie) Dean took up the position of scullery maid at the Sun Inn. Her charming demeanour and appealing appearance made her popular with the young men of the village and one in particular, James Freeman, set his cap for her.
Along with her new best friend (fellow maid Elsie Trainer) Lizzie talked of the life she might enjoy with James, who had promised her a cottage, amongst other things, should she submit to his charms. His wooing paid off and the pair began courting in earnest.
In what was perhaps just an attempt at seduction, James asked Lizzie for her hand in marriage, this excited her beyond all measure, and as soon as they had begun to plan their nuptials she gave in to his desire and amorous advances.
Poor Lizzie believed her matrimony was to take place on the 5th of November, at the adjacent St Bartholomew’s Church. However, on the third of the month, just two days before, James took her aside to explain he had in fact fallen for someone else. He had lost his heart to non other than Elsie and was now planning to wed her instead!
Lizzie felt as though her heart had been ripped from her breast by this double betrayal. Her anguish and despair was overwhelming.
Suffering such wretched melancholy, how she got through the next day is a mystery, but she continued to toil (alongside Elsie) at the Inn, eventually climbing into her bed, in the attic room of the pub, exhausted on what should have been the eve of her wedding.
Lizzie was roused the next morning by the tintinnabulation of wedding bells, horrified she had overslept she ran to the window to pull back the drapes. But the sight she was met with almost destroyed her on the spot. There in the grounds of St Bartholomew’s stood her lost love, the dashing chap whom had once been her paramour, arm in arm with the seductress who had so cruelly stolen him from her. As they exchanged a look of pure adoration the despondent Lizzie could take no more. Driven by a paroxysm of pain she snatched up her nib and ink-pot and scrawled a message on a scrap of paper, leaving an outpouring of disconsolateness, along with her final wishes.
Grabbing at the curtain cord pull Lizzie fashioned herself a makeshift noose which she secured to the iron bed frame before slipping the looped end around her neck.
The wedding party looked up to see 20 year old Elizabeth precariously perched on the topmost sill of the Sun Inn, her outpouring of grief apparent in the tears that flooded her once beautiful face. Once she had the attention of the full congregation Lizzie pushed herself from the ledge.
Those gathered screamed in terror as the lifeless body pendulated some ten meters above the cobbles of the street below.
As the body of Lizzie Dean was cut down and laid in the parlour of the public house her suicide note was discovered. The letter stated her final wish was to be interred beside the church entrance, so the newly wed Mr & Mrs Freeman would be forced to think of her each and every Sunday morning as they attended worship.
Perhaps surprisingly her wishes were carried out, although it is still widely believed suicides cannot be buried in consecrated ground, this is in fact a misconception. As long as the burial was performed under cover of darkness and without ceremony it was perfectly legal. (This law was abolished in the 1960s).
Unsurprisingly, James and Elsie could not bear the burden of such a reminder or the notoriety the whole sorry situation had brought upon them. They quickly relocated to the border of Scotland.
Perhaps this is why the spirit of Lizzie has never found peace. A spectral servant girl has been spotted in the pub standing by the stairs. One gentleman even reported a gaudily dressed young lady who faded as she walked through a wall. Also worth mentioning is a phantasmagorical shape floating by the ancient yew tree in St Bartholomew’s churchyard, for Lizzie was laid to rest by such a tree. Most recently a group of young men playing snooker were disturbed by a drifting apparition.
Another visit to the Sun Inn might just be on the cards, for I believe the pub was recently refurbished and nothing disturbs restless spirits like a bit of remodelling. Mines a pint of John Smiths if you decide to join me!