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St Leonards, Walton-le-Dale


St Leonard’s Church in Walton-le-Dale was according to folklore the location that Edward Kelly and Dr John Dee chose to famously summon a spirit, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

The following account was taken from Lancashire Folk-lore by John Harland and T. T. Wilkinson, 1867 where they in turn quote Casaubon.

In the reign of Queen Elizabeth and the year 1560, three judicial astrologers met in Preston, for the purpose of raising a corpse by incantations. They were Dr. Dee, Warden of Manchester (authors note: Dee did not become Warden of Manchester until 1595), Edward Kelly, his assistant, and seer, and Paul Wareing, of Dove Cotes, near Clayton Brook. Casaubon, in his " True and faithful Account of what passed for many years between John Dee and some Spirits," (apparently quoting from Weever's Funeral Monuments) states that "The aforesaid Master Edward Kelly, a person well skilled in judicial astrology, with one Paul Wareing (who acted with him in these incantations and all these conjurations) and Dr. Dee, went to the churchyard of St. Leonard's, in Walton-le-Dale, near Preston, and entered the burial ground exactly at midnight, the moon shining brightly, for the purpose of raising the body of a person who had been interred there, and who had during his life hidden a quantity of money without disclosing the fact previous to his death. Having had the grave pointed out to them on the preceding day, they opened it, removed the coffin lid, and set to work by various exorcisms, until the body became animated, by the spirit entering it again. The body then rose out of the grave and stood upright before them. It not only satisfied their wicked desires, it is said, but delivered several strange predictions concerning persons in the neighbourhood, which were literally and exactly fulfilled. Sibley, in his Occult Sciences, relates a similar account of this transaction, and also gives an engraving representing the scene, which took place at the midnight hour in the church of Walton. Another account states that Dr. Dee was engaged with Kelly in this enterprise, August 12th, 1560, and that Paul Wareing, of Clayton Brook, was the other who gave assistance in endeavouring to obtain an intercourse with familiar spirits,"

The above account and the dates it mentions are probably in error. 1560 would be too early for Dee to be working with Kelly. Especially as Edward Kelly (born 1 August 1555) would only have been 5 years old. Also whether Dee actually had anything to do with this ritual regardless to when it took place is probably open to debate.

The only remaining part of the church dating from the sixteenth century is the chancel and tower. The registers for the church begin in 1653 and the oldest grave in the churchyard is dated 1628, which is 68 years after the alleged date of the summoning.

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Ian Topham

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Ian Topham
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Re: St Leonards, Walton-le-Dale

Many years ago, I remember visiting St Leonard’s Churchyard very late one night on the way back from a party in Blackpool. Dan (co-creator of this website) and Lee were left in the car smoking roll ups whilst I investigated the churchyard with another investigator called J (pseudonym as he is a published scientist now with a reputation to protect). I can only imagine that the neighbours to the church thought we were up to no good and called the police as they swung their vehicle into the car park and started to interrogate Lee and Dan. The Police were told the story about Edward Kelly and the ritual and that they were accompanying two investigators trying to gauge where it could have taken place. Yes there had been alcohol at the party which could explain why I was wandering through a graveyard so late. The Police suspected drugs and checked the tobacco. They then came searching for J and I. We did not know it was a Policeman shining his torch over the grave stones and thinking it was Lee we decided to hide. The Police were not happy that they could find us and suspected Lee and Dan were lying. They were given a warning not to be there when they returned and took a note of all our names and addresses in case they discovered any vandalism the following day. I think I got a bit of a kicking when we did slowly emerge from the graveyard.

I’m sure there is a lesson to learn here somewhere.



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