Chingle Hall is one of Lancashire’s most haunted houses. It is currently closed to the public but BARRY McCANN hopes one day it will be reopened so we can discover its ghostly secrets…
Chingle Hall is reputed to be one of the most haunted houses in Lancashire, and has certainly been investigated and written about as such. And yet, its recorded catalogue of ghosts may not be quite complete.
Standing at Goosnargh near Preston, it was built in 1260 by Adam De Singleton and originally called Singleton Hall. The wooden beams used in its construction came from Viking longboats, Goosnargh being one of their settlements.
Later becoming Chingle Hall, it remained with the Singletons until 1585 when the Wall family took over. Being Catholics, the Singletons not only installed a chapel but added two priest holes during the 16th century when holding Papist masses was punishable by death. One in the floor to hide the accoutrements of mass and another within the chimneybreast to secrete the priest.
Mysterious smoke from Chingle Hall’s chapel ceiling
One of these hides remained undiscovered until “revealing” itself in 1970. When owner Mrs Howarth saw smoke coming from the chapel ceiling, she summoned the fire brigade who discovered the smoke originated from the unknown chimney hide, within which a log was burning from the inside out. Was this example of internal combustion spontaneous or was there a supernatural agency at work?
There have certainly been some ghostly experiences at the hall and one presence is thought to be Lady Eleanor de Singleton, who was deemed mad and kept in the Priest’s Room until her death aged 16-18 years. Visitors have reported a smell of lavender in that room thought to be hers. Others have sensed the odour of a dog, possibly an Afghan hound that kept her company.
But the most famous ghost is that of Blessed John Wall who, during the 17th century, went to France and became a Franciscan priest. He was in England visiting a friend when arrested and convicted of being a Catholic priest. Hung, drawn and quartered, his remains were buried in Worcester.
During the 18th century, a group of nuns brought his head back to Chingle and buried it somewhere within its boundaries. Since then he has been seen walking the grounds and even allegedly photographed. And it is said his spirit will finally rest when his head is discovered.
Those are examples of the known recorded hauntings but there is another Mrs Howarth related to me back in the 1970s, which owners and investigators during the years since seem to be largely unaware of.
‘Hooded Monk’ excites family dogs
Mrs Howarth said that, on many an evening, she would be in the far end of the lounge watching Coronation Street on TV, with her two dogs curled up by the fire. Then there would be the sound of the front door opening and closing, and one of two figures seen crossing through to the other side of the room and the doorway to the stairs.
The figure was usually a hooded monk in brown cowl, and the two dogs would leap up with tails wagging and walk with him to the stairs. However, the monk was sometimes in black, in which case her pets would remain crouched with heads down.
The brown monk is likely to be John Ward, but who was the black monk and why did it induce fear in Mrs Howarth’s dogs? Maybe an entity that had known no life at all, but rather a negative energy born out of the pain and suffering associated with Chingle Hall?
Today, Chingle Hall is closed to investigators as the current owner keeps it as private residence. But one day its doors will open again and perhaps the secret of the black monk finally uncovered.
Personal experience of Haunted Chingle Hall
Guest writer SOLOMON STRANGE tells us about the the night he spent in haunted Chingle Hall in Lancashire and lived to tell the tale …
Fear is the sudden realisation that everything you’ve been brought up to believe in is erroneous.
For example, there are no such things as ghosts, wraiths and spectres, so psychologists and sceptics tell us. We grow up to believe in our tactile senses, what we can see feel and touch are real and what we cannot perceive is relegated to myth, superstition and legend.
As a writer, I find it is important to draw on real life experiences to bring believability to the plot. This was the case whilst writing my novel The Ebethusa. Part of the story revolves around four young boys trapped in a sinister house; the mansion has a dark past which has terrible consequences for them. This segment of the book was gleaned from personal experience. Obviously, I have used artistic licence, but in many ways my experience was every bit as terrifying as what the boys go through, because what happened to me was real.
In 1990, I was asked to stay the night in a renowned Lancashire house for a charity event. The residence was known as Chingle Hall and its reputation was fearsome. Many people believe it to be the most haunted house in England. Originally built by Adam de Singleton in 1260 it succeeded many families, including the Singletons and Walls.
In 1679, during the time of the Catholic reformation, when it was illegal to practice mass in Britain, Father John Wall defied the law and was subsequently arrested for heresy. He steadfastly refused to forsake his religion, was hung drawn and quartered and his head buried at the hall. Legend has it that if his skull is ever found that the haunting will cease.
One thing is certain, there is nothing more unnerving than being stalked by something in the darkest hours of the night, when you are alone and that something is not human. . . but that is getting ahead of my story. . .
As we drove up to Chingle Hall it was already dark and we were all excited in a fun sort of way. The outside of the house certainly lived up to its reputation, dimly lit, it oozed an eerie atmosphere all of its own. We crossed the bridge and over the moat to the main entrance. Once in the great hall our guide spoke in length about the history of the building and its high level of paranormal activity, ranging from weird noises to ghostly monks wandering through the corridors in the dead of night. It was just what we expected, some great little stories to tell our friends the next day but thought no more of it.
Almost immediately, odd things started to happen. Sara noticed a cold spot right next to the great fireplace. I passed my hand across hers and felt it too, yet neither Pete nor Michelle could feel anything. It was completely contrary to the heat of the roaring fire. We just put it down to a sneaky draught and said no more about it. With our host now gone, we wandered through the house taking in its history. Eleanor’s room was considered to be one of the most haunted rooms, a young girl had been held captive for over twelve years in there. Eventually she died at the age of twenty. It had been explained to us that some people upon entering the room were overcome with emotion or could smell lavender. We experienced nothing!
The chapel, next to the great hall, offered very little in the way of anything paranormal, yet supposedly was witness to a whole host of supernatural activity. We continued our journey through the house, opening and closing creaky doors and just as I began to wonder if all of these stories were just hype, we heard the latch on one of the doors rattle up and clunk down. When we turned around, to our surprise, the door was ajar and no one in sight. I made a quick excuse that it was my fault and that I hadn’t closed it properly as I could see that Sara and Michelle were feeling increasingly uneasy. We decided to go back to the main hall and for the next couple of hours sat chatting. Perhaps I was just showing off or maybe I just wanted to satisfy my own curiosity but I took a torch and went upstairs on my own to Saint John Wall’s room.
The first thing that caught my attention was the smell, it was a curious aroma, almost certainly incense, the type you find in churches, except this was a deeper fetid stench. I remember looking around that room and felt nervous, felt cold, but it wasn’t a natural cold, it was more like a mild electrical current coursing through my body. To the side of the window something moved and I wished to God I hadn’t left the others downstairs. It looked like a dark shadow but wasn’t because it was deeper than the shadows surrounding it. Instantly the story sprang to mind of ghostly monks moving up and down stairwells and along corridors. This coal-black apparition, or whatever it was, had the vague outline of a monk but I couldn’t honestly be sure. I stood grim faced and could actually feel the blood draining from me. It’s strange, at that moment, I realised that this bizarre occurrence defied rational explanation, it couldn’t be explained away, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself that this was a trick of the light or fear fuelling my imagination. As it moved again, slowly turning towards me, I had the distinct feeling this presence was watching me. It seemed to move with a sense of self determination and that scared me. Needless to say I got the hell out of there as fast as I could.
This was a profound experience and something I have never forgotten.
Nothing in the mind is real, that is a psychological fact yet I know what I saw and it wasn’t my imagination running riot. This type of experience plays on our darkest fears, yet for me I count myself fortunate to have had this chilling experience.