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.