Spirits and spooks behind the bars of Lancashire’s haunted pubs

Meg Shelton's Grave, Woodplumpton.
Sepia Postcard No.3
Meg Shelton's Grave, Woodplumpton. Sepia Postcard No.3
Share this article

Down the generations tales have emerged of haunting spirits within the boundaries of the old county of Lancashire.

Many of them being associated with inns and taverns, with many a publican happy to tell of strange and mysterious occurrences as you down a pint of the landlord’s finest ale.

Grave of Lizzie Dean a servant girl, jilted at the alter whose tormented soul is still said to roam Chipping where she took her own life while forlorn

Grave of Lizzie Dean a servant girl, jilted at the alter whose tormented soul is still said to roam Chipping where she took her own life while forlorn

Drinkers in the Wellington Inn, in Preston, may tell you of the ghostly goings on in Glover Street where it is said a local man, the victim of a fatal stabbing, still roams in search of the Victorian penny piece which he and his killer quarrelled over.

Perhaps it is no wonder the George Hotel in nearby Church Street is no longer a public house after the tales from those premises of the sighting of a tall, gaunt 18th century figure in the cellars of the inn.

He was said to be a child murderer who had buried his victims beneath the 
cellar floor.

A white bereavement ring is reported to have been found in the cellar bearing the name of the ghost Robert Clay dating from the late 18th century.

Prestons Haunted Heritage
The Wellington

Prestons Haunted Heritage The Wellington

The nowadays derelict Spindlemakers Arms on Lancaster Road was built three times and had a 
different location along that highway.

Originally, it was at the junction with Balshaw Street and its present site dates from 1970.

In the mid 1980s there was talk of a ghostly appearance of a teenage girl dressed in Victorian garb appearing to the landlady of the time.

Many thought it was the ghostly figure of a former landlord’s daughter who had caused a late Victorian scandal in 1899 when she had fallen pregnant after being 
seduced by three men.

The Wheatsheaf Inn, at Woodplumpton, is always associated with ghostly tales of legendary witch Meg Shelton who is buried in the nearby graveyard beneath a large boulder and reportedly seen haunting the highway.

While in recent times the landlords of the inn have been spooked after a photograph taken there showed the image of a teenage girl knelt by the fireside polishing the brasses.

At the Sun Inn in Chipping your beer may run cold while the locals recall the story of Lizzie Dean, a servant girl, jilted at the altar, whose tormented soul is still said to roam the district where she took her own life in the attic of the pub while forlorn.

Of course, if the Punch Bowl Inn at Hurst Green is your favoured watering hole watch out for the ghost of highwayman Ned King who was captured there and ended his days on a local gallows tree.

At the Swan Hotel at Whalley they recall sightings of Mary Lane, a former scullery maid who on becoming pregnant was forced to give her child away in those less enlightened days and eventually amidst her sorrow and shame killed herself.

At the Swan and Royal Hotel at Clitheroe they tell a similar tale of Annie Druce, a teenager who when she fell pregnant was disowned by her parents and in a forlorn state stayed at this hotel where she committed 
suicide. Her ghost is said to roam around the top floor where visitors from afar claimed to have caught sight of her.

At the old Red Rock Inn at Padiham they talked about catching fleeting glances of an early Victorian chamber maid called Mary who had made the odd appearance to send shivers down the spine.

Mawdesley is said to be the haunt of a ghostly lady known as the ‘Old Madam’ who, besides her antics at the Hall from which she was banished with an exorcism taking place, was later claimed by the innkeeper there to be haunting the nearby tavern known locally as ‘Hell Hob’, identified as the Black Bull in more recent times.

The New Inn at Foulridge has apparently gathered ghosts aplenty it would seem, be they Quakers angry that their resting places in the nearby cemetery have been disturbed or the restless souls of Cavaliers slain by Cromwell’s troops.

Another who fell foul of the Civil War days was 
Edward, a son of Lord Stannycliffe, who was slain in the conflict.

He had quickly hidden away in the cellars of the Ring ‘O’ Bells in Middleton when the Roundheads called to quench their thirst.

Betrayed by the landlord, who feared for his own safety, he attempted to escape through a secret passageway but was savagely killed. Many people claim to have seen the phantom of this sad, forlorn-looking Cavalier.

On a more jolly note the Laughing Cavalier is associated with the Rake Inn situated on the road from Rochdale to the top of Blackstone Edge.

It seems he has connections with Oliver’s Cottage along the same highway, harking back again to the bloody days of conflict.

It seems that tales of ghosts and fleeting phantoms are commonplace in the inns of Rawtenstall.

At the Craven Heifer a haunting manifestation of a child has been reported, the Old Cobblers Inn was at one time noted for the manifestation of a Grey Lady, while regulars at the Railway Inn speak of a tall, slim Grey Lady who has appeared in the 
cellar or bedroom on occasions.

It is a similar story just along the railway track at Waterfoot as the Railway Inn there records sightings of another Grey Lady called Jane who has appeared in the bedrooms. Not exactly ‘50 shades of grey’ but enough to make you wonder.

There is a tale that the Old Dog Inn in the market place at Wigan was haunted by a spirit of an ancestor of the Earl of Derby who had been discovered hiding in a cupboard. When the cupboard was removed in the mid 19th century the ghost was never seen again.

At the Engineers Arms in Nelson back in 1905 the regulars spoke of the appearance of the ghost of former landlord Robert Adams who had been buried in Aberdeen.

His burly ghostly figure was said to have been seen at the dead of night behind the bar pouring himself a pint.

The Ship and Royal at Lytham lays claim to being haunted by ghost called Charlie who has made appearances in the cellar there and whose noisy antics have disturbed many a landlord at dead of night.

Blackpool, not surprisingly, has its share of spirits. The Reflex Bar, known previously as the Foxhall, is on the 17th century site of the old Foxhall public house on the Golden Mile where in earlier times the Foxhall stood and fleeing priests took refuge.

Consequently tales of ghostly apparitions of priests and even smugglers have been told down the centuries.

While the old Coach House hotel at South Shore has had its share of reputed sightings with both a black cloaked male and serving wench appearing.

So wherever you travel in old Lancashire you are likely to be reminded of the haunted past within the inns and taverns ,including the large cities of Liverpool and Manchester where you will discover many more ghostly tales attached to the public houses.

Mind you it is not always as it seems, back in January 1869 the ‘Preston Chronicle’ reported that for a few days a ghostly figure had been floating in the neighbourhood of St Mark’s Church dressed in a crinoline printed dress and frightening the females hurrying to the mills.

This questionable spirit was reported to have later visited the Wheatsheaf Inn on Watery Lane and demanded a drink which was supplied as requested by the landlord for fear of suffering harm. Fearsome though the figure was it was concluded that it was not a spirit after all, but more likely a Irishman who had drunk his senses away.

And in 1887 the landlord of the Fox and Goose public house in Chorley was awakened at the dead of night when his bedroom door was burst open by a figure dressed in white.

The would-be spirit fled the scene making such piercing screams they were glad to see the back of it. A constable on patrol on the dimly lit streets gave chase and apprehended the intended burglar.

Imagination can run wild on a night such as Halloween, so keep yours in check and if you should visit one of Lancashire’s inns or taverns be aware that some mysterious manifestation may raise your spirits.