Chamber Hall Boggart, Oldham
Demolished in the early 20th century, Chamber Hall, according to tradition, from the 1600’s was associated with a boggart. The following newspaper article by W.A.W, entitled ‘Chamber Hall, It’s Place In Oldham History, Yeoman, Fustian-makers, Colliers, Aristocrats, Boggart And All’ is dated from before the demolition and gives a good overview of the sites history and supposed haunting.
‘CHAMBER Hall is doomed! Unless public opinion can express itself forcibly and clearly, there seems to be no possibility of the ancient home with its interesting out-buildings being preserved.
Ignominious demolition threatens the Hall that was the seat for over three centuries of the Tetlows, the residence of Sheriff Wrigley, most prominent Cromwellian magnate, mansion of the stately Georgian Gregges of Chester, abode of the still more famous “Chamber Ha’ boggart”.
The residence itself has been rebuilt more than once. The farmhouse behind it is part of an earlier Chamber Hall, but that too is only a comparatively modern representative of the first Hall. Chamber appears on the stage of history in the thirteenth century as the marriage portion of one of the heiresses of the Oldham of Oldham.
When the first Tetlow of Chamber built the Hall and brought his bride to be mistress of it, it would be one of the very few houses that possessed a separate reception room, that is to say, a large upper storey, and not merely attic rooms in the gables. This proud distinction gave it the name it has ever since borne. There was no town of Oldham in those days. What is now the great and populous County borough of Oldham was then just “Kaskenmore” – a territory open and mostly barren “forest” land with but few clearings. Another generation was to pass away before St Mary’s Church would provide a nucleus around which the settlements would congregate and begin slowly to evolve the Oldham of to-day.
The community was a purely pastoral one. Quite possibly some of the coal on the surface was worked here and there by the settlers. They did their own spinning and weaving of course for their home-made garments. But they wrested a very precarious living from the soil, of which a few plots only would be of any value for growing their scanty grain crops. Oatmeal and ewes’ milk must have been their staple food for the most part.
Handing down the Hall from father to son, the Tetlow family remained at Chamber for over three changeful centuries. Some of the family in the sixteenth century began to work the coalpits on a fairly large scale for those days.
From Chamber Hall came the gentle mother of Lawrence Chadderton, for whom Emmanuel College, Cambridge, was built in 1584, one of the most eminent Elizabethan divines, and one of the 47 translators of the English. Authorised Bible of 1611. As a boy Lawrence must often have played and worked in the old barn still to be seen.
This mediaeval barn just to the south of the house is the most ancient building now remaining in Oldham and is so finely proportioned that from the architectural as well as from the historic point of view it would be a thousand pities if it should be destroyed. It has of course been often repaired and perhaps partly rebuilt. The date which appears on it with initials, “G.W. 1640 I.W.” no doubt commemorates one of these restorations. The initials are those of George Wood and his wife Jane, daughter and sole heiress of Robert, the last male representative of the Tetlows of chamber Hall.
In 1646 the Woods cut off the entail and sold the property to Henry Wrigley. Probably he built the present cottage to the north, a small two-storey block with an external stone stair. It has a date-stone “H.W. 1648” over the doorway; and he seems to have used the upper room as a receiving house and warehouse for fustian brought in by the weavers from their cottages far and near.
Henry Wrigley was the chief antagonist of the incumbent of Oldham Church, the Rev. John Lake, a stout “Church and King” man. Their controversies were acute. It is pleasant to remember, however, that forty years later Wrigley would have been delighted to have heartily supported his old opponent when as Bishop of Chichester, Lake stood out as one of the “Seven Bishops” for English liberties in 1688. Wrigley became High Sheriff of Lancashire in 1651, and was one of the largest employers of labour – agricultural, textile and colliery – for many miles around. He was for many years the most influential man in Oldham. He was one of the executors of the will of Humphrey Chetham, and so concerned in the foundation of the very earliest public library in England – that of Chetham’s Hospital, still so full of interest and beauty.
His granddaughter, Martha, married Joseph Gregge, Esq., of Chester, in 1680, and until quite recently the Hall remained in that line. The name “Gregge Street” – now renamed Grange Avenue – commemorated those owners. Captain Benjamin Gregge became High Sheriff in 1722, and of Mrs Gregge it is recorded that she was “beautifully fair” as well as distinguished by “ornaments of mind”.
The front of the Hall was rebuilt, probably in Captain Gregge’s time, and is a good example of early Georgian domestic architecture. The old oak from the interior has largely disappeared.
Mr James Dronsfield has told us in “Ouselwood” the story of the famous boggart, the tradition having been a live one in his infancy, a hundred years ago. The boggart used to play all sorts of noisy pranks on the inmates of the Hall.
Food had to be placed for it each night to keep it from being too troublesome.
One night a new maid to whom the task was allotted, tempted by the daintiness of the titbits left over from a dinner-party, ate them herself, then, saying “Churn milk and barley bread is good enough for boggarts” left only the latter in their place, in a bowl. Then she finished her ironing and went to bed. A few minutes later terrified shrieks came from her room. The boggart had appeared and repeating the scornful words “Churn milk and barley bread” had indelibly branded her with the hot smoothing iron. The story of the “flitting” abandoned when the boggart promised to accompany his hosts, is told of this as well as of other boggarts. After all, why should they not act in the same way under similar conditions?
At last it became necessary to exorcise the intruder. After prayer and fasting the boggart consented to be removed, stipulating only that a live game-cock should be buried with him beneath the doorstone. This granted after the final “Amen” the doorstone suddenly cracked right through the middle, and a sepulchral voice declared.
So long as hollins and ivvens are green
Chamber Ha’ Boggart will ne’er more be seen
It is only fair to the boggart, however, to add that only three years ago I was told by the lady of the house that mysterious noises, sometimes like the sound of a loud insistent knock, were still heard in the dead of night in its old abode!
The boggart was also said to sit sometimes upon a rail under a large thornbush on the opposite side of the lane, and old inhabitants tell how in their childhood very few Oldham people would have dared to go along Chamber Lane after nightfall.
The article referred to the tale of the flitting, when the residents attempted to move out and leave the boggart behind. James Butterworth, writing in 1826, published the following account in his ‘History and Description of the Parochial Chapelry of Oldham in the County of Lancaster’.
‘It appears from tradition, at least, that some part of the estate belonged to the Roe’s, for there is a curious story which we may fairly set down to have happened in the time of James the 1st., of witchcraft memory. The story runs, (according to the authority of our paralytic headed Mother, Dame Tradition) – that some peculiar chamber in the ancient hall of the same name, was haunted, and that the apparition so terrified the proprietor or possessor, that he was determined to quit his abode. In consequence, every preparation was going on, for a sudden removal, as no one would associate with this terrific spectre. All the most hardy of the spiritual people, celebrated at that period for the appeasing of demons, by charms and other etceteras, had spent their skill and tried every effort in vain; it therefore was universally deemed expedient to quit the invisible being, and leave it in quiet possession of the premises. All was in a train, goods packed up, chairs, beds, furniture of every description, not even a single stool was intended to have been left, whereupon the apparition might have reposed itself, when, lo! a voice from the interior of the said haunted room, was heard repeating, in the most appalling accents, “Stop! stop! Master Roe, while I put on my trashes, aud I’ll follow you.” The story goes, that it terrified Mr. Roe so much, that he fainted away.’
In his Historical Sketches of Oldham (1856), Edwin Butterworths account is obviously influenced by the above. ‘Few old halls are unconnected with legendary lore, and consequently this venerable mansion is peopled by Dame Tradition, with spectres of other days. Some old inhabitants of the neighbourhood are firm to the popular belief of a particular chamber in the Hall being haunted, by an apparition which so terrified the possessors – the Wroe family, then connected with the Wrigleys, as lessees – as to determine them to quit the abode. The adventures of this evil spirit seem to have been similar to those attributed to the unearthly visitant of Boggart Hole Clough, near Blakeley. Every method possible was tried to get rid of the unwelcome intruder, yet all was in vain, and the master of the house, being out of all patience, made up his mind to leave; but when everything was just packed up ready for removal, a voice, but too well known, was heard from the direction of the haunted room, repeating in most appalling accents, “Stop, stop, Mr. Wroe, while I get ready, and I’ll follow you!”