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Boggart of Shatton February 22, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback

Shatton and Offerton

The Boggart is a solitary and typically pretty nasty fairy. The following is an unusually detailed early twentieth- or perhaps late nineteenth-century account. Our author (writing in the 1950s) notes that the Boggart ‘attacked man and beast’ and then continues:

The Boggart would appear to have instilled in the people of the Peak a dread exceeded only by that occasioned in East Anglia, even today, by the phantom known as Black Shuck [a demon dog]. A dalesman returning to Offerton village from Shatton was intercepted by the Boggart as he reached the two stone stoops between which the pathway from Shatton Lane runs into a field. The Boggart simply wouldn’t allow him to pass there, as had always been his custom. So he worked his way round to a gap in the hedge, only to find that ‘the thing’ was to confront him there also. ‘It wasn’t a dog or a ram’ he assured those to whom he spoke of his adventure. ‘Oh dear no! It was something terrifying and supernatural!’ Finally, he abandoned his endeavour to reach Offerton by his usual route, and sought his destination circuitously.

This passage is fascinating for several reasons. First, it has all the signs of being a memorate rather than a folk story: though who knows at what hand it arrives to us – second, third or twentieth? It is not like other Boggart stories, and note the way that the creature is not satisfactorily described, though an attempt is made by denying that it was a ram or a dog. The fact that the walker could not go on also seems unusual: more often these fairy beasts lead people on a merry dance, causing them to walk around in circles. Beach wonders whether a slightly inebriated dalesman didn’t hop up onto a stile only for the blood to rush to his head and for a peculiar neurological reaction to set in. Another possibility is that this was a fierce dog. In Derbyshire the Boggart was often said to be a black dog (see below). And an angry dog would not let you through…

One thing that can, instead, be paralleled  is the fact that the encounter takes place at a border between fields. There are several fairy parallels for this from Cornwall and from Wales, inter alia.  The place where the encounter took place can apparently be picked out on the map above. It seems to be where Garner Ho is marked: ‘the pathway from Shatton Lane runs into a field’ about a kilometre to the south of a series of interesting standing stones. Spooky… Well, actually not really, there are so many standing stones in Derbyshire it would be difficult to have a carnal or psychic experience further than a couple of miles from a megalith.

A final note. The source for this story seems to be one Dr Mary Andrews who lived at Shatton and who supplied a series of ghost stories for the area. Given how few houses are in these parts it look as if every second house had a bug in the basement. She notes to her correspondent:

You mentioned faeries the other day. People living in our isolated villages and on our lonely farms not only believe in them, but see them and hear them! Yes, we have our faeries in plenty. And we have our boggarts and our hobgoblins, often seen in the form of black dogs. The dalesfolk speak of them as ‘hounds of hell’. And, of course, we have our phantom horses – any number of them!

Other boggart stories: drbeachcombing AT yahoo dot Com


22 Feb 2013: Chris from Haunted Ohio Books sends in this link: ‘A site with a nice collection of boggart stories.’  And some great Lancashire material. ‘And the Clegg Hall boggarts–confusing and ambiguous: In Roby and Wilkinson’s suggestive work on Lancashire Legends, to which we are indebted for some of the traditions in this volume, is an account of the Clegg Hall tragedy. The story, as given in the work just referred to, is as follows: “Clegg Hall, about two miles N.E. from Rochdale, stands on the only estate within the parish of Whalley which still continues in the local family name. On this site was the old house built by Bernulf de Clegg and Quenilda his wife, as early as the reign of Stephen. Not a vestige of it remains. The present comparatively modern erection was built by Theophilus Ashton, of Rochdale, a lawyer, and one of the Ashtons of Little Clegg, about the year 1620. After many changes of occupants, it is now in part used as a country ale-house; other portions are inhabited by the labouring classes, who find employment in that populous manufacturing district. It is the property of the Fentons, by purchase from the late John Entwisle, Esq., of Foxholes. “To Clegg Hall, or rather what was once the site of that ancient house, tradition points through the dim vista of past ages as the scene of an unnatural and cruel tragedy. It was in the square, low, dark mansion, built in the reign of Stephen, that this crime is said to have been perpetrated,—one of those half-timbered houses, called ‘post-and-petrel,’ having huge main timbers, crooks, &c, the interstices being wattled and filled with a compost of clay and chopped straw. Of this rude and primitive architecture were the houses of the English gentry in former ages. Here, then, was that horrible deed perpetrated which gave rise to the stories yet extant relating to the ‘ Clegg Hall boggarts.’ The prevailing tradition is not exact as to the date of its occurrence; but it is said that some time about the thirteenth or fourteenth century, a tragedy resembling that of the ‘ Babes in the Wood’ was perpetrated here. A wicked uncle destroyed the lawful heirs of Clegg Hall and estates—two orphan children that were left to his care—by throwing them over a balcony into the moat, in order that he might seize on their inheritance. Ever afterwards—so the story goes—the house was the reputed haunt of a troubled and angry spirit, until means were taken for its removal, or rather expulsion. “Of course, this ‘boggart,’” says Mr. Wilkinson, “could not be the manes of the murdered children, or it would have been seen as a plurality of spirits; but was, in all likelihood, the wretched ghost of the ruffianly relative, whose double crime would not let him rest in the peace of the grave. Even after the original house was almost wholly pulled down, and that of A.d. 1620 erected on its site, the ‘boggart’ still haunted the ancient spot, and its occasional visitations were the source of the great alarm and annoyance to which the inmates were subjected. From these slight materials, Mr. Roby has woven one of those fictions, full of romantic incident, which have rendered his Traditions of Lancashire* so famous. We have taken such facts only,” concludes Mr. Wilkinson, “as seem really traditionary [sic], recommending the lovers of the marvellous to the work just cited for a very entertaining tale on this subject.” [[footnote*] “It is only just to state,” remarks Mr. Wilkinson, “that the story of  the ‘Clegg Hall Boggart’ was communicated to Mr. Roby by Mr. William Nuttall, of Rochdale, author of Le Voyageur, and the composer of a ballad on the tradition. In this ballad, entitled ‘Sir Roland and the Clegg Hall Boggart,’ Mr. Nuttall makes Sir Roland murder the children in bed with a dagger. Remorse eventually drove him mad, and he died raving during a violent storm. The Hall was ever after haunted by the children’s ghosts, and also by demons, till St. Antonea (St Anthony) with a relic from the Virgin’s shrine, exorcised and laid the evil spirits.”] To this meagre if suggestive account of a popular story, may be added, that in a curious manuscript volume, now, or recently, the property of Dr. Charles Clay, of Manchester, Mr. Nuttall notes that “many ridiculous tales were told of the two boggarts of Clegg Hall, by the country people.” That there were two, all local accounts would seem to testify. “At one time,” proceeds Mr. Nuttall, “they (the country people) unceasingly importuned a pious monk in the neighbourhood to exorcise or ‘lay the ghosts,’ to which request he consented. Having provided himself with a variety of charms and spells, he boldly entered on his undertaking, and in a few hours brought the ghosts to a parley. They demanded, as a condition of future quiet (the sacrifice of) a body and a soul. The spectators (who could not see the ghosts), on being informed of their desire, were petrified, none being willing to become the victim. The cunning monk told the tremblers: ‘Bring me the body of a cock, and the sole of a shoe.’ This being done, the spirits were forbidden to ‘revisit the pale glimpses of the moon’ till the whole of the sacrifice was consumed. Thus ended the first laying of the Clegg Hall boggarts.” Unfortunately, the plan of laying the ghosts adopted by the wily priest has not proved; permanently successful; whether the “sacrifice” has been wholly consumed, or the fact that the spirit of the demand not being truly acceded to is the cause, is, of course, unknown, but, for some reason or other, the two ghosts continue to walk, and the belief in their appearance is as complete and as general as ever. The haunted homes and family traditions of Great Britain, Volume 1, John Henry Ingram. Then Chris offers this: Mumby, near Alford. The Farmer and the Boggart.— ‘T boggart, a squat hairy man, strong as a six-year-old horse, and with arms almost as long as tackle poles, comes to a farmer who has just taken a bit of land, and declares that he is the proper owner, and the farmer must quit. The farmer proposes an appeal to the law, but boggart will have naught to do wi’ law, which has never yet done him justice, and suggests that they should share the produce equally. “Very well,” says the farmer, “wilt thou tek what grows above ground, or what grows beneath ground? Only, moind, thou mun stick to what thou sattles; oi doant want no back-reckunnings after.” He arranges to take what grows above ground, and the farmer promptly sets potatoes. Of course, when the boggart comes at harvest time to claim his share he gets nothing but the haulms and twitch, and is in a sore taking. At last, however, he agrees to take all that grows beneath ground for next season, whereupon the farmer sows wheat, and when boggart comes round at t’ backend, the man gets corn and straw, and naught is left for boggart but the stubble. Boggart then insists that next year wheat should be sown again, and that they should mow together, each taking what he mows. The farmer consults the local wise man, and studs boggart’s ‘falls’ with thin iron rods, which wear down boggart’s strength in cutting and take all the edge of his scythe. So boggart stops to whet, and boggart stops to rest, but the farmer mows steadily on till at last the boggart throws down his scythe in despair and says, “Ye may tek t’ mucky owd land an’ all ‘ats on it; I wean’t hev no more to do wi’ it.” And off he goes and nivver comes back no more, leastways not after no land, but awms aboot t’ delves, an’ skears loane foaks o’ noights; an’ if thou leaves thy dinner or thy tools about, ofttimes he meks off wi’ ‘em.’ Examples of printed folk-lore concerning Lincolnshire, By Eliza Gutch, M. G. W. Peacock 1908. And finally a strange haunted boggart. Thanks as always Chris!