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Whilst the Upper Calder Valley is rich in documented folklore, the lower stretches of the dale have been relatively neglected. Arguably this is because they are less ingrained in the tradition of the area and as such, are of less historical interest, mere apocrypha in the scheme of folkloric research.

However, hours of trawling through the archives of the Brighouse Echo and other topographical guides have produced a substantial yield of local ghost stories and miscellaneous customs which it seems wise to collect and record for the interest of inhabitants of the region and anybody curious about such matters generally.

As many of the stories are slight, they did not seem to justify a printed work and hence the internet was the best place to collect this information. Some entries will reflect this relative paucity of detail, whilst others will expand on it by seeking to place the story in its wider folkloric context.

For the purposes of the blog, the “Lower Calder Valley” is a loosely defined area but roughly speaking it the watershed below where the Hebble Brook joins the River Calder at Salterhebble and above where the Calder joins the River Colne at Cooper Bridge, beyond which the local landscape arguably ceases to resemble a valley in any meaningful sense.

Most of the places mentioned will be located within the boundaries of the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale but as this is an arbitrary, administrative entity which only came into existence in 1974, it will not be used as a definitive guide and areas lying just across the border with Bradford or Kirklees will not be exempt.

Hence, Brighouse, Elland, Southowram, Exley, Hipperholme, Northowram, Shibden, Rastrick, Coley, Clifton, Hartshead, Cooper Bridge, Bailiff Bridge, Greetland, Stainland and Barkisland all fall within the remit. Essentially, any area contained within the black line on the map below is eligible for inclusion.

Published on March 15, 2010 at 12:42  Comments (4)  

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. With regards to Boggart House down Ashday Lane, Southowram. My mother always used to tell us that someone had been murdered on the stairs and that the blood that had stained the staircase could never be scrubbed off.
    Steven Beasley (Southowramer)

    • Thanks for your comment, Steve! I hadn’t heard this story about Boggart House before. The motif of a murder leaving an indelible bloodstain is extremely common in English folklore, so it’s a very telling addition to the tales connected to the house.

  2. Walterclough Hall had long since seen its last resident and most of the main hall, with
    its cavernous windows, had collapsed leaving the older, grime blackened, Jacobean
    east wing still standing. The windows here on the facade had narrow mullions on the
    ground and first floor, blocked off windows on the third floor and round window on
    the upper floor; all of which overlooked the stone cobbled farmyard and its cluster of decrepit buildings.

    The stone barn still stood firm against the north side of the yard with its massive arched doorway facing down across the valley.

    It was a warm barmy summer Sunday in the late 1960’s, when my wife and myself along with her mother and father took an afternoon stroll down the Walterclough valley and along the old road that passes the hall. The air was heady with the smell of flowers and sweet mown hay with a skylark filibustering high in the blue sky and we were alone in the world.

    Memories came flooding back to when, in my teens, I had spent a lot of time helping on the farm at Walterclough. I remembered that everything was very primitive and how I used to carry water and food for the pigs and calves using a wooden yoke, which was placed across my shoulders with buckets suspended on two chains hanging by my sides. The yard then rang with a cacophony of noise from the clucking hens, calves calling absent mothers and piglets demanding milk from fat sows.

    Archie the farmer, in avoiding advances in technology had retained Dolly the big carthorse as the only form of motive power. It was her job and mine to collect pig swill from the houses in the village every Sunday morning with the old milk cart. On returning to the farm the swill would be off-loaded into a large coal fired cooking pot before being fed to the pigs.

    Dolly liberated into the field, spent the rest of her Sunday resting in readiness for next week’s toil and Archie, in a beery haze would snooze in front of a smoky wood fire whilst I did jobs about the farm.

    As we entered the yard on this summer’s day all was now eerily silent and the dark empty window sockets of the remaining part of the hall stared down on us in sinister fashion.

    I had only ever been as far as the kitchen but was always curious about other parts of the house and on the day of our visit I was allowed the privilege of venturing further.

    The old heavy wooden door to the side of the building creaked open easily as we pushed at it and soon we were inside the same big kitchen and climbing the stairs to the bedrooms above. It was here at the top of the stair that my mother-in-law suddenly stopped dead in her tracks with her left hand clutching my arm and her right hand held to her mouth to stifle a scream. Her actions frightened the wits out of us and when asked what was wrong, she replied that she had just seen a vision of her father leaning over a garden gate waving for her to come forward to him!

    Although none of us had seen or heard anything, it was not long before we were all back into the bright welcoming sunshine in the yard and making off past the barn towards the old road below.

    After turning the corner round the end of the barn we stood for a while with our backs against the wall, by the huge arched door, feeling the sun on our faces and the reflected heat from the wall behind.

    We were all still feeling uneasy but it was a relief to be out of that place. My wife’s mother had turned ashen and was frozen to the touch but now she was regaining herself when suddenly a shower of stones hit the wall of the barn with a terrific force, landing on the floor at our feet. Fortunately none hit us or we would have been badly injured.

    We were quite startled by this event because there was no sign of anybody at all. The land in front of us, the direction from which the hail of stones appeared to have come, sloped away from the barn to the old road and then fell away into the valley. On each side of us were open fields so there was no place for anyone to hide, in any direction.

    Just to be certain that no one was hidden in some secluded place, we ventured down towards the old road and the bank, that represented the lip of the valley below, but there was no one.

    The distance from the old road to the barn wall was far more than any strong armed bowler could have covered with a handful of rocks and had someone used a catapult then it would not have had the capacity to hold the amount of stone in one shot.

    We were now all convinced that some unseen force was intent on us leaving that place and to tell you the truth we needed no further encouragement.

    The hall has had a chequered history stretching back to the 16th century with tales of death, debt and intrigue. The hall was held in the ownership of the wealthy and prestigious Walker family until the 1870’s when it became a ladies boarding academy. Emily Bronte taught at another academy at Law Hill nearby and it is considered that she drew inspiration to write her only novel, Wuthering Heights, from her experiences at Law Hill and her visits to Walterclough Hall.

    We never went back and just before the hall was demolished in the 1970’s, my father, an amateur watercolour artist, captured the stark atmosphere of the soot blackened building set against a leaden sky with window sockets staring over the yard for one last time.

    Steven Beasley
    This is a true story

    • I’m particularly grateful for this fascinating comment! I’m aware of the turbulent history of Walterclough Hall and its possible influence on Wuthering Heights, and I’ve long been hoping that somebody would be able to offer evidence of a haunting there. Would you mind if I add your story to the website in my next update, and even possibly use it in a future publication? It would not be necessary to use your name, if you preferred anonymity.


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