The Grey Lady Of Dunkenhalgh Hall
Every old house has its ghost and Dukenhalgh Hall in Clayton Le Moors, Lancashire, about two miles from where I live, is no exception. There are many reports of The Grey Lady being seen near the house or on the nearby bridge on winter nights and there is an element of truth to the story. I hope I have fashioned it into a suitable tale for Halloween.
Annwn comes to Lancashire
It is that time of year, when according to pagan tradition the portal between our world and Annwn, in true pagan tradition the overworld, a higher dimension than this physical plane, are opened and its inhabitants walk amongst us. Annwn (also called Albion, Avalon and Sidhe) is not a dark, frightening place as is Hell in Judeo - Christian tradition or Niflheim of Norse legend, not is is a place of punishment ike the Greek and Roman Hades. It is a land of eternal youth and everlasting contentment, the Land Of Ever Young.
All the same, some of its inhabitants have long memories and hold on to grievances about things that happened to them here in mortal surroundings. So it is best to avoid chance encounters with them especially on dark winter nights, as this story of a Grey Lady who haunts the grounds of Dukenhalgh Hall close to my home will tell.
At some time during the seventeenth century, we do not know quite when, Lucette, a young French woman of good family came to work as governess for the Petre family, Lords of the manor of Clayton-Le-Moors in the County Palatine of Lancashire.
We should think kindly of Lucette because the terrible fate that befell her was through no fault of hers, nor of the aristocratic and honourable Petre family.
A few hundred yards west of the Hall, the Hynd Burn runs through a steep sided valley over which a stone bridge has carried travellers on the road from Colne to Blackburn. Even now, superstitious people crossing the bridge on foot after dark on or the winter solstice (December 21) find themselves hurrying and casting fearful glances all around them. In the lifetime of my wife's parents, only the terminally reckless would dare to walk that road at on the night of the solstice.
Every year, on the longest night, the ghost of pretty Lucette appears on the bridge, dressed in a grey cloak and if any travellers are foolish enough to speak with her when she approaches them, she will take hold of them in a vice like grip and drag their body with her as she throws herself over the low parapet into the cold water below. This is Lucette's story.
When the Petre family were a power in the land and frequent guests at the King's court an aristocratic young army officer was staying at Dunkenhalgh Hall as their guest. He and Lucette fell in love.
Lucette was of course a Roman Catholic, being French and since King Henry VIII had formed the English Church rather than yield sovereignty to The Pope, Catholics were not regarded as suitable spouses for Anglicans in society of the haughtiest particularity. In the north of England, Lancashire and Yorkshire especially, the Catholic Tradition remained strong however and the Petre family had no problem about employing Lucette to supervise and educate their children.
Religious prejudice was strong in those days and 'marrying out' was a certain way of ensuring a rapid and total ostracism from society. Nonetheless the young man soon found a way to worm his way into Lucette's affections and to seduce her. He swore undying love and promised they would flee to the colonies together and become great landowners, but his intentions were not honourable, he never intended to marry the naive young French girl.
The aristocratic officer, whose name we do not know, let's call him Rupert - they're all called Rupert, Jeremy or Tarquin, was a protestant and knew his family would never accept Lucette unless she renounced her faith. And a good Catholic girl would never renounce her faith. And Rupert would never renouce his family's fortune.
In spite of that, hormones recognise no sectarian boundaries and Lucette soon became pregnant.
One day she approached her lover and said, "Rupert, I am with child, what steps are you going to take?"
"Great big quick ones and many of them he replied," and ordering his groom to saddle his horse and his valet to pack his bag, he bade farewell to the Petre family leaving his lover to her fate.
Betrayal and revenge
What was to become of Lucette, callous Rupert had ruined her reputation, she could not go home to her family and dishonour them, she could not appeal to the Petre family for help, they would only say that her shame would taint their children and order her off their estate, she could not get her to a nunnery as Henry VIII had closed all the Catholic ones and The Anglical Church disapprived of garlic.
Realising that her welcome at Dunkenhalgh Hall had expired and there was no longer a place for her with the Petre family (and probably suffering from a bit of SeasonaAffected Disorder too)she took to hiding her despair by wandering around the woodlands of the estate weeping for her lost love and her lost reputation.
On the afternoon of the solstice as darkness fell, she found herself in the glade alongside the Hynd Burn where she had many times strolled hand in hand with Rupert as she dreamed of a golden future and he dreamed of ways to get inside her knickers. But her false lover had gone and she was a ruined maid with no prospects of finding employment and no way to support herself. she wandered to As despair clouded her judgement she walked to the bridge Rupert must have crossed as he fled from his responsibilities and threw herself into the Hynd Burn's torrent.
Rupert did not evade justice long, Lucette's bother Louis, on learning of his beloved sister's fate, travelled to Lancashire, tracked down Rupert and challenged him to a duel. They met on the bridge the French girl had thrown herself from, In the duel Louis prevailed and thus avenged of his sister and dissolved the stain on the family's honour. Lucette did not forget however, ghost is still said to haunt the scene of her unfortunate love affair and on winter solstice nights, seeking out men who have been false to their love, and exacting a terrible revenge from beyond the grave.
Mr. Wilde's Final Farewell (a ghost story)
Season of The Witch
Sawney Bean (horror)