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Two Knutsford Ghost Stories

"Around Haunted Manchester" by Peter Portland
(AMCD Publishers)

The first is a slight but charming legend from Knutsford itself, where language and folklore seem to mingle. As befits Knutsford, it concerns nuts (not unfortunately King Canute who may or may not have given his name to the town). An elderly lady was buried in the Old Churchyard at Knutsford, with the unusual stipulation that a small sack of hazel nuts in their shells be placed beneath her head. This was duly done - but the nuts proved uncomfortable, so she turned in her coffin. T'other side was no better, so she arose from her grave one moonlight night, and proceeded to crack and eat the hazel nuts, seated on her own tombstone. She then folded the sack for a pillow, retired to her coffin and troubled the mortal sublunary world no more.

But one nut had rolled away unseen. It sprouted and grew. It fruited and its own nuts attracted the attention of local truants. As Henry Green noted in 1869 in his small, but beautifully written book Knutsford: the nut-tree 'was looked upon with wonder, as an undeniable witness for all who love the marvellous and believe in church-yard verities.'

The second story has uncanny temporal twists. Somewhere on the A537 from Knutsford to Chelford in the 1800s, a group of three people passed the turnpike at about midnight in a horse-drawn gig. The young man in the centre was noted by the gatekeeper as being supported by the other two. Next day his dead body was found by the road at Ollerton. His clothes and his soft hands suggested someone of some social standing, but his identity was never discovered, though the clothes were retained as evidence for many years.

The story passed into local legend. It occurs in Henry Green's 1869 History of Knutsford. But the sequel is even more astonishing. It occurs in Cheshire Notes and Queries for 1889, when a reader, Albert A Birchenough, wrote in to express his astonishment at the Green story. In October 1872 he had been walking to Chelford, and having passed Norbury Booths, was halfway along his journey. It was a Sunday, the countryside was silent, and the night was clear, with a starry sky. Behind him he heard a 'conveyance' with the rattling of wheels and horses. He moved aside to let it pass, but it seemed to stop some 20 yards behind him. There was a sound of voices and two or three persons jumping down.

He turned, and went back to ask for a lift, but there was nothing there. A passer-by came up from the Chelford direction, and eyed with suspicion someone wandering around in the road at that hour. Birchenough explained the reason ,and asked if there were any turnings here - 'no'
Perhaps they were poachers? 'Hardly likely to be in a gig'.

So, some decades after the events, a stranger notes a strange event; it takes him several decades more to realise the meaning of what he heard….

From: "Around Haunted Manchester" by Peter Portland (AMCD Publishers)


A short guide to the written sources and folklore of local ghosts


Peter Portland


ISBN: 1 897762 25 9

Altrincham,Cheshire, WA15 9UA

TEL: 0709 200 7768