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The Written Stone, Dilworth

A large inscribed stone measuring eight feet long, two feet wide and one and a half feet deep was placed beside a old road (now known as Written Stone Lane) in Dilworth during the 17th century. The reason why the stone was placed is unknown, though several stories have grown up around it. The following account was published in 'Lancashire Legends' (1873) by John Harland & T T Wilkinson.

'The anonymous author of "The New Clock" mentions, in his "Curious Comers round Preston," that, having heard of a farm called "Written Stone," from an ancient stone bearing an inscription which stands near it, and that the place was reputed to be the haunt of boggarts, he determined to visit it. It is in the township of Dilworth, and parish of Ribchester, about two miles from the village of Longridge, and seven miles N.E. of Preston. Turning down a narrow lane, or old bridle-road, it soon plunged the searcher into a deep ravine, with a rapid mountain rivulet coursing through it, and a tall hedge of holly and hazel making the place a grove. For half a mile he walked and waded through mud and water, and on emerging from this long and tedious lane, turning to his right into a neat farmyard, he espied in a comer the object of his search. He describes it as a huge stone, a foot thick, nine feet long, two feet wide, and apparently from the adjacent rocks, placed like a gravestone on the cop. The inscription is on the side facing the road : — Ravffe : Radcliffe : laide : this : stone : TO : LYE : FOR : ever : a.d. 1655." *

The characters (he adds) are not the raised letters so prevalent in the seventeenth century, but deeply cut in the stone. He found the farmhouse tenanted by a young woman of very respectable appearance, the daughter of the owner of the estate, who, in this romantic spot, leads almost the life of a recluse. She had no dread of supernatural visitants, having never been disturbed by ghost or hobgoblin; and her theory on the subject was pithily summed up in the declaration, "that if folks only did what was right in this world, they would have nothing to fear." The date on the stone speaks of the days of sorcery and witchcraft, and of the troubled times of Cromwell's protectorate. Tradition declares this spot to have been the scene of a cruel and barbarous murder, and it is stated that this stone was put down in order to appease the restless spirit of the deceased, which played its nightly gambols long after the body had been "hearsed in earth." A story is told of one of the former occupants of Written Stone farm, who, thinking that the stone would make a capital "buttery stone," removed it into the house and applied it to that use. The result was, that the indignant or liberated spirit would never suffer his family to rest. Whatever pots, pans, kettles, or articles of crockery were placed on the stone, were tilted over, their contents spilled, and the vessels themselves kept up a clattering dance the live-long night, at the beck of the unseen spirit. Thus worried out of his night's rest, the farmer soon found himself compelled to have the stone carefully conveyed back to its original resting-place, where it has remained ever since, and the good man's family have not again been disturbed by inexplicable nocturnal noises. Well may they say with Hamlet, "Rest, perturbed spirit!"

*In Baines's "Lancashire" (vol. iii. p. 383), there is a somewhat different version of this inscription : — "Rafe Ratcliffe laid this stone here to lie for ever. a.d. 1607." He adds, that this Rafe was owner of the estate. It will be seen that neither christian name nor surname nor date agrees with the text, which latter, however, we believe to be correct.

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