William de Lindholme (Lindholme Willie)
There have been two ghosts referred to as Lindholme Willie. One is usually associated with what is thought by some to be a Polish WWII bomber crewman and the second a hermit known as William de Lindholme.
The hermit lived on Hatfield-chase (a Royal hunting ground until King Charles I had it drained in 1626.) in Hatfield. His cell and grave are described in John Bigland’s 1815 ‘Yorkshire; or, Original delineations … of that county’. ‘About three miles south east from Hatfield is Lindholms small farm house in a very remarkable situation. It stands in the centre of about sixty acres of firm sandy ground full of pebbles surrounded by a deep and extensive morass, which can never be passed on horseback and except in very dry seasons, not without difficulty on foot. The soil of this island for such it may be called, is productive of all sorts of corn except beans and there is a well about fifteen feet deep full of pure spring water, which is the more extraordinary, as the water of the surrounding morass is of the colour of coffee. Tradition relates that in this place formerly lived a hermit called William of Lindholm but preserves no account of the age in which he existed. It seems that his mode of life and the situation which he had chosen had rendered him famous and the most romantic and incredible tales concerning him are yet current in the neighbourhood, where he is described as a conjuror and a giant. In the year 1747 his stud built cell was still standing and was visited by George Stovin Esq of Crowle in the Isle of Axholme accompanied by the Rev Samuel Wesley, father of the late famous John Wesley. At the east end of the house stood an altar of hewn stone and at the west end was the hermit’s grave covered with a freestone, eight feet and a half in length three feet in breadth and eight feet in thickness. By the help of levers the stone was raised and underneath it they found a tooth, a skull and the thigh and shin bones of a human body, all of a very large size, they also found in the grave a peck of hemp seed and a piece of beaten copper.” It is difficult”, says Mr Stovin “to imagine how such vast stones should be brought when it is even difficult for man or horse to travel over the morass, which is in some places four miles across, and on which grows an odoriferous herb, called gale, and a plant named silk or cotton grass, from its white tuft on the top resembling the finest cot ton wool. It is supposed that before the draining of the levels of Hatfield Chase, there was great plenty of water, by which the huge stones must have been conveyed: this I think the most probable conjecture.” Since the time of these gentlemen’s visit to Lindholme a brick house has been built on the site of the ancient cell but the place where the hermit was buried is still shewn under a long table at the side of one of the rooms’
The burial site described above I suspect predates William Lindholme by many centuries. However, there is a story in which he buried himself. Essentially committing suicide. The following account is taken from the ‘Herald’ (Hatfield Town Council’s newsletter) Issue 31. ‘Lindholme was known during Saxon times, and was the centre of a religious community. A hermit, William de Lindholme, lived a lonely existence in a desolate region which took its name from this man. One local story is that when he knew his life was coming to an end, he dug his own grave and buried himself by knocking away a support from under a large stone which sealed his last resting place. His ghost is said to inhabit the moors!! His grave was discovered near the present Lindholme Hall in 1727. The quietness and solitude is certain proof that the area has altered little since the time of William de Lindholme. It is reputed that Billy de Lindholme’s ghost has been seen by local residents.’
It is hard to believe that he would have been able to man handle a huge block of stone that was eight feet thick and bury himself.
According to a folklore a groom would lead his bride to visit the hermit on the morning of their wedding in order to receive a blessing a drink from the spring water.
Rev. Abraham de la Pryme (born 1671 – Died 1704) who had been a curate at Thorne penned the following poem about about William. This is extracted from The Gentleman’s Magazine 1747.
Within an humble lonesome cell
He free from care and noise does dwell,
No pomp, no pride, no cursed strife.
Disturbs the quiet of his life.
A truss or two of straw’s his bed,
His arms, the pillow for his head,
His hunger makes his bread go down,
Altho’ it be both stale and brown.
A purling brook that runs hard by
Affords him drink when’eer he’s dry
In short, a Garden and a Spring,
Does all life’s necessaries bring.
What is’t the foolish world calls poor?
He has enough ; he needs no more,
No anxious thoughts corrode his breast
No passions interrupt his rest.
No chilling fear, no hot desire,
Freezes or sets his blood on fire,
No tempest is engender’d there.
All does serene and calm appear.
And ’tis his comfort when alone,
Seeing no ill, to think of none.
And spends each moment of his breath
In preparations for his death.
And patiently expects his doom,
When fate shall order it to come.
He sees the winged lightning fly
Thro’ the tempestuous angry sky,
And unconcerned its thunder hears.
Who knows no guilt can feel no fears.
I do not the exact location of the hermitage, so the map shows a random location on Lindholme Island.