St. Wilfrid’s Parish Church, Calverley

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  1. Ian Topham says:

    Re: St. Wilfrid’s Parish Church, Calverley
    ‘Haunted Churches’ (1939) by Elliott O’Donnell
    Many accounts of the haunting of Calverley Hall and churchyard have been published. The following is an extract from an article by Mr. Samuel Margerison of Calverley, that appeared in The Yorkshireman.

    Walter Calverley, whose father was a rich Roman Catholic, was a wild, reckless man, though his wife was a most estimable and virtuous lady. It is said that he inherited insanity from his mother’s family. Be that as it may, on the 23rd of April 1604, he went into a fit of insane frenzy of jealousy, or pretended to do so.

    15th January 1884.

    The fact was he had completely beggared himself and got " over head and ears " in debt. Money-lenders were pressing him hard, and he had become desperate. Rushing madly into the house, he snatched up one and then another of his children ; plunged his dagger into them, threw them down, and then attempted to take the life of their mother. A steel corset which she wore was luckily in the way, and saved her life.

    The assassin, however, thought he had killed her, and left hurriedly. He then mounted his horse, intending to kill the only other child he had, Henry, a " brat at nurse " who was then at Norton. He was pursued by some villagers, his horse fell and threw him, and so he was caught. When brought to trial at York, he refused to plead, knowing that thereby his estates would not be forfeited to the Crown, but would descend to his surviving son.

    He was pressed to death by iron weights, or stones, put on his chest, till it was crushed in, a barbarous method of capital punishment employed in this country up to the end of the eighteenth century, some say even later.

    One of his old servants who tried to hasten his end, in order to relieve him, was at once seized and hanged. Calverley was buried at St. Mary’s, Castlegate, York, but a rumour spread that his friends secretly disinterred his remains and had them removed to Calverley churchyard. Anyhow both churchyards, St. Mary’s and Calverley, obtained the reputation of being haunted by his ghost. Regarding the haunting of Calverley churchyard, an article entitled " Calverley, Forty Years Ago," appeared in a Bradford paper, March 1874. In it the writer described how he and some of his schoolfellows used to go to the churchyard, in order to evoke the iron ghost. Having piled their hats and caps on the ground, in the form of a pyramid, they took hold of each other’s hands and, forming a circle, danced round and round, crying out :

    Old Calverley, old Calverley, I have thee by the ears, I’ll cut thee into collops, unless thee appears.

    After this had gone on for some time, probably till they were all hoarse, they strewed breadcrumbs mixed with pins on the soil, and then some of the boldest of them went to each of the church doors, and after whistling through the keyholes, repeated once more the magical couplet. This was the culminating effort, if the ghost did not emerge now from the church, wherein it was believed to be secreted, no further attempts to lure it forth that day would be of avail. On one occasion, at least, so the writer affirms, the ghost did actually appear and so frightened the youths that they fled, pell mell, leaving their caps, hats, and other belongings behind them.

    After that, they never again experimented in trying to evoke ghosts.

    Calverley’s ghost is still rumoured to haunt the locality of the churchyard and lanes and roads in the district. It is said sometimes to appear on foot and sometimes on a headless horse, followed by a number of other wild and sinister-looking ghosts, similarly clad, that is to say in seventeenth-century costume, and similarly mounted.