Sykes Lumb Farm
There is nothing now standing of Sykes Lumb Farm though it probably stood near to the present day Sykes Holt. The farm dated back to the the War of the Roses (1455 – 1485) and gained a reputation for being haunted by a boggart that guarded over a hidden treasure. The story has been published several times. In the account below from ‘The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain’ (1897), John Ingram quotes ‘Lancashire Legends’ (1873) by John Harland & T T Wilkinson.
“In a secluded dell, on the banks of Mellor Brook says Mr. T. T. Wilkinson, “not far from the famous old Hall of Samlesbury, near Blackburn ” (a haunted old Hall whereof an account will be found in these pages), “stands a lonely farm-house, which was occupied for many generations by a family named Sykes. They gave their name to the homestead, or vice versa, on its being cleared from the forest; and, from the fact of the pastures lying at a short distance from a broad and deep portion of the brook, it became generally known by the name of Sykes Lumb Farm.”
This Sykes family, however, as Mr. Wilkinson records, have long since passed to dust, and many generations of strangers have dwelt on their lands, but the doings of one particular member of the race have been handed down, from year to year, by tradition, and still exercise a potent influence upon the minds of the surrounding population. Before referring to the especial tradition for which Sykes Lumb Farm is noted, it may be as well to point out that it possesses an uncanny reputation for a supernatural inhabitant other than the apparition from which its fame is chiefly derived. In one work by Mr. Wilkinson it is referred to as the residence of a noted boggart, or domestic familiar, in these terms:
“When in a good humour, this noted goblin will milk the cows, pull the hay, fodder the cattle, harness the horses, load the carts, and stack the crops. When irritated by the utterance of some unguarded expression or marked disrespect, either from the farmer or his servants, the cream-mugs are then smashed to atoms, no butter can be obtained by churning, the horses and other cattle are turned loose, or driven into the woods, two cows will sometimes be found fastened in the same stall, no hay can be pulled from the mow ; and all the while the wicked imp sits grinning with delight upon one of the cross-beams in the barn. At other times the horses are unable to draw the empty carts across the farm-yard; if loaded, they are upset, whilst the cattle tremble with fear without any visible cause. IS or do the inmates of the house experience any better or gentler usage. During the night the clothes are said to be violently torn from off the beds of the offending parties, whilst, by invisible hands, they themselves are dragged down the stone stairs by the legs, one step at a time, after a most uncomfortable manner.”
The way in which this boggart is described as haunting Sykes Lumb Farm is in no way out of the common, especially in Lancashire and the neighbouring counties, but it is of interest in this case, as showing the popular belief that the place is troubled in some way. In what way the house and grounds are really believed to be, or, until recently, to have been, haunted is thus described in Roby and Wilkinson’s Lancashire Legends, and William Dobson’s Rambles by the Ribble.
In the days when the farm was owned by old Sykes and his wife, careful living and more than ordinary thrift enabled the old couple to gather together a fair amount of wealth, which, added to the continual hoarding of the farmer’s ancestors, caused the pair to be regarded as wonderfully rich, in those days. Whatever the facts as to their wealth may have been, they saw its possession ultimately jeopardized by civil troubles and national famine. It was their chief, if not their only object of affection, as they had neither son nor daughter, nor any other object upon which to expend their love; therefore, the risk of losing it gave them more than ordinary anxiety. Old Sykes does not appear to have clung to their darling hoard with half the affection displayed by his worthy consort; her dread of losing it was intense. Besides, says our chief authority, she had no notion of becoming dependent upon the bounty of the Southworths of the Hall, nor did she relish the idea of soliciting charity at the gates of the lordly Abbot of Whalley. The treasure was therefore carefully secured in earthenware jars, and was then buried deep beneath the roots of an apple-tree in the orchard. Years passed away, and the troubles of the country did not cease. The Yorkists at length lost the ascendancy, and the reins of government passed into the hands of the Lancastrians; until at last the northern feud was healed by the mingling of the White Rose with the Red. Henry VII sat upon the throne with Elizabeth of York as Queen; but, ere peace thus blessed the land, old Sykes had paid the debt of nature, and left his widow the sole possessor of their buried wealth. She, too, soon passed away; and, as the legend asserts, so suddenly that she had no opportunity to disclose the place where she had deposited her treasure. Rumour had not failed to give her the credit of being possessed of considerable wealth; but, although her relatives made diligent search, they were unsuccessful in discovering the place of the hidden jars.
“The farm passed into other hands, and old Sykes’ s wife might have been forgotten had not her ghost, unable to find rest, continued occasionally to visit the old farm-house. Many a time, in the dusk of the evening, have the neighbouring peasants met an old wrinkled woman, dressed in ancient garb, passing along the gloomy road which leads across the Lumb, but fear always prevented them from speaking. She never lifted her head, hut helped herself noiselessly along by means of a crooked stick, which bore no resemblance to those then in use. At times she was seen in the old barn, on other occasions in the house, but more frequently in the orchard, standing by an apple-tree which still flourished over the place where the buried treasure was afterwards said to have been found. Generations passed away, and still her visits continued. One informant minutely described her withered visage, her short quaintly-cut gown, her striped petticoat, and her stick. He was so much alarmed that he ran away from the place, notwithstanding that he had engaged to perform some urgent work. ‘She was not there’ he gravely said, ‘when I went to pluck an apple, but no sooner did I raise my hand towards the fruit, than she made her appearance just before me’. At last, it is said, an occupier of the farm, when somewhat elated by liquor, ventured to question her as to the reasons of her visits. She returned no answer, but, after moving slowly towards the stump of an old apple-tree, she pointed significantly towards a portion of the orchard which had never been disturbed. On search being made, the treasure was found deep down in the earth, and as the soil was being removed, the venerable-looking shade was seen standing on the edge of the trench. When the last jar was lifted out, an unearthly smile passed over her withered features; her bodily form became less and less distinct, until at last it disappeared altogether.
“Since then the old farm-house has ceased to be haunted. Old Sykes’s wife is believed to have found eternal rest; but there are yet many, both old and young, who walk with quickened pace past the Lumb whenever they are belated, fearful lest they should be once more confronted with the dreaded form of its unearthly visitor.”