Black Abbey, Accrington
Three Cistercian monks were murdered by the inhabitants of Accrington in the late 13th century and according to tradition a local haunting dates back to this time. ‘A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6’ (1911) gives the following information about the historical events.
‘The manor of ACCRINGTON was a member of the honor of Clitheroe, and was by Henry de Lacy granted to Hugh son of Leofwine together with Altham before 1177. It must have been surrendered to the grantee or his successor, for Robert de Lacy gave it to the monks of Kirkstall by way of compensation for the grange at Cliviger which had been recovered from them by Richard de Elland. The gift was confirmed by William son of Hugh de Altham for the love of God and for the salvation of the souls of himself, his wife and kindred.
The bounds recited in Robert de Lacy’s charter show that the whole of New Accrington was granted, and possibly Old Accrington also; the New may be ‘the wood called the hey’ which is mentioned, for in later times New Accrington was regarded as in the forest, while Old was copyhold land. The monks made a grange there, removing the inhabitants to make room for it; and these, taking it ill, revenged themselves by setting fire to the new building, destroying everything in it and killing the three lay brothers who were in charge. Due punishment was meted out. The monks’ tenure was of no long continuance, for in 1287 the abbot resigned his lands to Henry de Lacy, who agreed to pay 80 marks a year in return, chargeable upon Accrington, Cliviger, Huncoat and other manors. From that time the manor has remained a part of the lordship of Clitheroe. It is often called a chase.’
It is not however the monks who are thought to haunt Black Abbey. ‘Centuries ago, Black Abbey in Accrington was home to a devout order of monks. A young member of the order fell in love with Ursula, the beautiful daughter of a nobleman. Biding their time until they could marry, they met secretly in a top room in an abbey tower. But one night, the young monk was captured by the girl’s father and his henchmen, chained to a wall and set on fire. His beloved had been hiding, but hearing his deathly screams she ran to help him. There have been several reports of Ursula appearing in a halo of light. Golden tresses fall down her back, she is the epitome of radiant youth. But when she sees you, her flesh becomes withered and scabby, as though scorched by flames. Then she emits a horrible shriek and vanishes.’ [Accrington Observer – ‘Spooky tales of a haunted Hyndburn’ by John Fahey – 30 October 2003]