Mary Pannell, The Witch Haunting Of Ledston Hall

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Mary Pannell’s 16th-century witchcraft trial still haunts the road near Ledston Hall in West Yorkshire with eerie sightings and mysterious events, writes JOANNA HAGUE

Ledston Hall, near Castleford

On a road leading away from the hustle and bustle of Castleford, passing through idyllic countryside you will find Ledston Hall.

The hall was owned by The Monks of Pontefract Priory in the Middle Ages, they built the original chapel in the 12th Century. However, in 1540 they gave the house to King Henry 8th who leased the property to Henry Witham. 

It was here in this Grade 2 listed building that Mary Pannell worked as a maid for the Witham family, the locals knew of the family after the mysterious deaths that occurred at the hall. Alongside serving the family, Mary was a widower and a known herbalist. 

When her husband died and left her a widow with three children, after the death of her oldest son, Mary began selling herbal remedies to earn a little money to support herself and her two daughters.

Mary lived on the edge of a forest in a hut with her daughters when she began offering her services. Unfortunately, during the 1500s woman who were widowed, dabbling in herbalism were targets for witch-hunters. 

Ledston Hall
Ledston Hall

Mary took on a job at the hall to take focus away from her selling herbal remedies.

It is believed that one day Sir William Witham’s son became ill, and Sir William looked to Mary for help. Mary made a mixture that was created as a balm to rub on the young boy’s chest, however the child ingested the mix and as a result died.

It is also rumoured that Sir William died at the hands of Mary, however, there is no confirmation as it could have also been his wife, as she found out he was having an affair. 

Mary was arrested for causing the death of the child in 1593, under the Witchcraft Act of 1562. However, Mary would not be brought to trial for a further 10 years. Mary was eventually sentenced to death by hanging in 1603, she was then removed and taken to a hill near Kippax where she was burnt. At the time the hill was surrounded by trees, with a dirt track leading up. The hill was later renamed, and it still known by locals as Mary Pannell hill. 

Mary Parnell Ghosts Roams Near Ledston Hall

The road that is between both Ledston Hall and Mary Pannell hill is where Mary is said to roam, walking the lonely road been seen by several people. Several people have seen a hooded woman walking down the road in the middle of the night, when the drivers reach the crossroads, the figure is stood in front of the car and the engine of the car cuts out before she disappears. 

One of the eyewitnesses told me that on her drive home from her friend’s house, she passed a figure on the other side of the road, she thought this was strange as it was late in the evening. As she pulled up to the junction, the same figure that she had seen and passed, was stood in front of her.

Logic told her that it was impossible as she was driving, and the figure could not have gone that fast to get in front of her. This is something that has stood with her for several years as she cannot explain what it was. 

On the same stretch of road, people have seen a horse drawn carriage, with hooded figures inside, these were thought to have been dressed in hooded robes, like the ones worn by monks.

Ledston Hall has been featured on ghost hunting programmes, where they claimed to have been in touch with the ghost of the maid which we can only assume was Mary Pannell. 

JOANNA HAGUE says: “I write fiction stories and in my spare time I love ghost hunting. I have dabbled in the paranormal since I was a little girl. I currently live in Yorkshire. My latest book is on Amazon: Ashfield Asylum and Other Haunted Memories.”

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