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Peg O'Nell of Waddow Hall, Waddington


The Grade II listed 17th century Waddow Hall has been owned by the Girl Guides Association since 1928. There is an old folk tradition associated with Waddow Hall and the ghost of Peg O'Nell or Peg o' th' Well. The following account of the tradition is extracted from 'Lancashire Folk-lore' (1867) by John Harland and T. T. Wilkinson.

Peggy's Well.—Peggy's Well is near the Ribble, in a field below Waddow Hall, not far from Brunckerley stepping-stones, in attempting to cross by which several lives have been lost, when the river was swollen by a rapid rise, which even a day's rain will produce. These calamities, as well as any other fatal accidents that occur in the neighbourhood, are usually attributed to Peggy, the evil spirit of the well. There is a mutilated stone figure by the well, which has been the subject of many strange tales and apprehensions. It was placed there when turned out of the house at Waddow, to allay the terrors of the domestics, who durst not continue under the same roof with this mis-shapen figure. It was then broken, either from accident or design, and the head, some time ago, as is understood, was in one of the attic chambers at Waddow. Who Peggy of the Well was, tradition doth not inform us.

The writer of the Pictorial History of Lancashire states that going to Waddow Hall he inquired after the headless stone statue known as "Peg o' th' Well;" and a neat, intelligent young woman, one of the domestics, showed him Peggy's head on the pantry table, and the trunk by a well in an adjacent field. He gives the following as the substance of the tradition:—The old religion had been supplanted in most parts of the country, yet had left memorials of itself and its rites in no few places, nor least in those which were in the vicinity of an old Catholic family, or a monastic institution. Some such relic may Peggy have originally been. The scrupulous proprietors of Waddow Hall regarded the innocuous image with distrust and aversion; nor did they think themselves otherwise than justified in ascribing to Peggy all the evils and mischances that befel in the house. If a storm struck and damaged the house, Peggy was the author of the damage. If the wind whistled or moaned through the ill-fitting doors and casements, it was "Peggy at her work," requiring to be appeased, else some sad accident was sure to come. On one occasion Master Starkie—so was the host named—returned home very late with a broken leg. He had been hunting that day, and, report said, made too free with the ale afterwards. But, as usual, Peggy bore the blame: for some dissatisfaction she had waylaid the master of the house and caused his horse to fall. Even this was forgiven. A short time afterwards a Puritan preacher was overtaken by a fresh in the river, in attempting to cross over on the stepping-stones which lay just above the Hall, the very stones on which poor King Henry (VI.) was captured. Now, Mrs. Starkie had a great attachment to those preachers, and had indeed sent for the one in question, for him to exorcise and dispossess her youngest son, a boy of ten years of age, who was grievously afflicted with a demon, or, as was suspected, tormented by Peggy. "Why does he not come?" asked the lady, as she sat that night in her best apparel, before a blazing fire and near a well-furnished table. "The storm seems to get worse. Hark! heard ye no cry? Yes! there again. Oh, if the dear man be in the river! Run all of ye to his rescue." In a few minutes two trusty men-servants returned, panting under the huge weight of the dripping parson. He told his tale. "'Tis Peg," she suddenly exclaimed, "at her old tricks! This way, all!" She hurried from the apartment, rushed into the garden, where Peggy stood quiet enough near a spring, and with one blow of an axe, which she had seized in her passage, severed Peggy's head from her body.


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Ian Topham
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Re: Peg O'Nell of Waddow Hall, Waddington

The following account of an experience by Alan Pickover appears on the BBC Lancashire website dated 2003:

I have always been sceptical of the supernatural, however events last night have made me change my opinions vastly.

I work as a shift manager at Castle Cement, Clitheroe and last night saw something that I cannot explain.

Part of my duties involve a drive into the surrounding countryside every 12 hours to monitor the plume from our chimney stacks.

On this occasion, the drive took me to Waddow Hall at Waddington, where I parked the van and got out to watch the plume. The time was somewhere just after midnight, so obviously it was relatively dark and there was a chill in the air.

It was then I became aware of a presence, that started out as a shadow, but as my eyes became accustomed to the gloom I could make out a hooded figure that appeared to be making it's way towards me. As it moved, it seemed to glide, and as it approached it became obvious that it was much bigger than myself, and appeared rather sinister. At this point I retreated to the van and drove off back to the works - I am not ashamed to say that I was absolutely terrified.

On raising this with my colleagues, a number of them told me that it must have been Peg O'Nell, a ghost out of local folklore. Whatever it was, it has changed my perception of how I view the supernatural forever, and means that I will be very wary the next time I venture into that area again at night.

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Re: Peg O'Nell of Waddow Hall, Waddington

The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain by John Ingram (1897). 

Mr. William Dobson's interesting Rambles by the Ribble, furnish one or two accounts of local dwellings labouring under the uncanny odour of beinsf haunted. Mr. Dobson, although evidently no believer in ghosts, and unable to resist the temptation of having a fling at their erratic courses, tells of their doings with a chronicler's exactitude.

Writing in 1864, our authority says that Waddow Hall, in the township of Waddington, Yorkshire, was then in the occupation of James Garnett, Esquire, Mayor of Clitheroe. The property of the Ramsden family, Waddow Hall is situated in a pleasant park, which, though not of great extent, is of great beauty.

The house stands on a knoll, with pleasant woodlands about it. At the foot of a gentle slope flows the Eibble ; the castle and church of Clitheroe are seen to advantage, the smoke only indicating where the town of Clitheroe lies, an intervening hill hiding the town itself from view. The mansion contains many portraits of its former owners and various members of their family, but the main interest of Waddow appears to arise from its being the scene of an old legend, which the folks of Clitheroe and the neighbouring Yorkshire villages are never weary of repeating, and for the truth of which they are perfectly willing to vouch. Many of the older inhabitants of Clitheroe and Waddington would as soon doubt the Scriptures as they would a single iota of the following tradition.

In the grounds of Waddow and near the banks of the Kibble, there is a spring called Peg o' Nell's Well, and good water the spring sendeth forth in plenty. Near the spring is a headless, now almost shapeless figure, said to be a representation of the famous Peg herself.

Peg o' Nell, as I learned, says Mr. Dobson, was a young woman who, in days of yore, was a servant at Waddow Hall. On one occasion she was going to the well for water, the very well that to this day supplies the Hall with water for culinary purposes. She had had a quarrel with the lord or lady of Waddow, who, in a spirit of anger, not common, it is to be hoped, with masters and mistresses, wished that she might fall and break her neck. It was winter, and the ground was coated with ice; her pattens tripped in some way or other, Peggy fell, and the sad malediction was fully realised. To be revenged on her evil wisher, Peggy was wont to revisit her former home in the spirit, and torment her master and mistress by " making night hideous." Every disagreeable noise that was heard at Waddow was attributed to Peggy; every accident that occurred in the neighbourhood was through Peggy. No chicken was stolen, no cow died, no sheep strayed, no child was ill, no youth " took bad ways," but Peg was the evil genius. "When a Waddow farmer had stopped too long at the ' Dule ups' Dun,' and going home late had slipped off the hipping-stones at Brunerley into the river, or a Clitheroe burgess, when in Borland, had, like 'Tarn o' Shanter' sat too long ' fast by an ingle bleezing finely/ while ' the ale was growing better/ and had fallen off his horse in going home, and broken a limb, it was not the host's liquor that was charged with the mishap, but on Peggy's shoulders that the blame was laid."

What was worse, in addition to these perpetual annoyances, every seven years Peg required a life; and the story is that "Peg's Night," as the time of sacrifice at each anniversary was called, was duly observed; and if no living animal were ready as a septennial offering to her manes, a human being became inexorably the victim. Consequently it grew to be the custom on "Peg's Night" to drown a bird, or a cat, or a dog in the river, and, a life being thus given, for another seven years Peggy was appeased.

One night, at an inn in the neighbourhood, as the wind blew and the rattling showers rose on the blast, "and as the swollen Kibble roared over the hipping-stones, a young man, not in the soberest mood, had to go from Waddington to Clitheroe. No bridge then spanned the Bibble at Bungerley ; the only means of crossing the river was by the stones, which Henry the Sixth, in his last struggle for liberty, had tripped over towards ' Clitherwood.' He was told he must not venture over the water, it was not safe. He must be at Clitheroe that night, was his response, and go he would. j But,' said the young woman of the inn, by way of climax to the other arguments used to induce him not to go onward, * it's Peg o' N^l's night, and she has not had her life.' He cared not for Peg o' Nell; he laughed at her alleged requirement, gave loose to his horse's rein, and was soon at Bungerley. The following morning horse and rider had alike perished, and, of course, many believed the calamity was through Peg's malevolence."

Peg, it is averred, is still as insatiable as ever, and many would dread to dare her wrath.



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