The Screaming Skull of Wardley Hall
The skull that resides at Wardley Hall is another skull with opposing legends to account for its existence. In tradition the skull – which was kept behind a panel – was supposed to be that of royalist Roger Downs who lived in the 17th century. Roger was a man of ill nature, and according to legend once killed a Taylor in a drunken unprovoked attack, because he had sworn to kill the first person he met. His influence in high society allowed him to literally get away with murder. Eventually Roger picked a fight with somebody more than his equal, and during a drunken brawl on Tower Bridge in London, a watchman (or waterman) severed his head with one stroke. His body was then unceremoniously dumped into the River Thames. His head is said to have been delivered to the hall in a wooden box. The story was disproved when his coffin was opened in 1779, as his head was still attached to his body.
The skull actually belonged to Father Ambrose Barlow, who was hung and quartered for his faith in 1641; his head was then put on display at Manchester church or at Lancaster castle. According to some sources the skull came into the hall when it was bought by a catholic sympathiser, who kept the skull hidden lest his true leanings were discovered. The skull was then rediscovered in the 18th century by the owner of the house. One day a servant found the skull and threw the grisly relic into the moat, whereupon there was a terrible storm that led the owner of the hall to believe the skull was venting its wrath at being removed. He had the moat drained and the skull was returned to its position.
From traditional stories the skull seems to be indestructible as it has been buried, burned and smashed into pieces, always to be found outside the hall the next day, wearing its eternal grin.
The actual story is thought to date from the 1930s when a visiting journalist was duped into believing that that the skull was one with a tradition as a screaming skull. The skull has also been removed (by one time resident the Bishop of Salford) from the house for periods, without the occurance of paranormal activity.