Hannah Beswick of Birchen Bower, Hollinwood
There used to be a large manor house (now demolished) called Birchen Bower in Hollinwood in Oldham, which was famous for its alleged haunting by a Grey Lady called Hannah Beswick.
Hannah Beswick was somewhat of an eccentric lady living in Birchen Bower in the 1700’s. At that time there was a rational fear of being buried alive, one shared by Hannah and probably stemming from the fact that her brother nearly suffered this fate. On her death in 1768, she left her doctor – Charles White – some of her property along with an understanding he had to complete a strange obligation. He could inherit the property so long as he embalmed her body with bandages and tar with only her face exposed, and kept her at his property in King Street Manchester. It was also set down that her body should be returned to the house every 21 years, which was carried out until 1837. After this time her body went on display in a Manchester Museum until 1868 – when it was finally interred for good in Harpurhey Cemetery.
From then on her spirit is said to have manifested in area around the house, restless because her deathbed wishes were not being fulfilled. She was seen wandering from a barn near the house to a nearby pond in an agitated state, wearing a black gown and a white lace cap. It became common folklore that on wintry nights the barn would glow with unearthly light, a place to be avoided by the locals, apart from those who were fulfilling a dare or the unnaturally curious. The barn seemed to be a focus for the haunting and there seems to have been reports of poltergeist activity, with a cow being transported into the hayloft by unknown means. She was also said to have been seen wandering through the house even when it was redeveloped to separate apartments.
Local legend eventually suggested that she haunted the area of the barn to protect treasure that she had hidden in life, and the spectre became more and more frightening as time wore on. Eventually the house was demolished and the haunting fell away as people forgot about the ghost. There was to be a reminder of the haunting in 1981 when a ghost was seen inside the Ferranti factory, which had been built upon the site of the old house.