Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c./Part 1/Kersal Hall Traditions

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Part I: Legends and Traditions; Kersal Hall Traditions.


Though many of the antiquated mansions of Lancashire can boast of a ghostly legend, or a half-historical tradition, few are so rich in boggart-lore as Kersal Hall (now a dependency of Kersal Cell), two or three hobgoblin stories being attached to its name. When Richard Peveril, the last Saxon inheritor of Kersal, in defending his home against Norman intruders, was overpowered by numbers, his body was thrown into the Irwell opposite to his own door. The knight who slew Peveril took immediate possession of the envied domain by right of conquest; but his triumph was of short duration. While he slumbered at midnight, the gnomes of the lower earth and the spirits of the upper air united their forces to effect his destruction. When daylight appeared, the Norman was found extended upon the spacious threshold—a notice or caution, written with his own crimson fluid, being visible on his brow, to the effect that all trespassers would be prosecuted to the utmost rigour of fairy law. The night thus made hideous must have been especially dreary to the retainers of Kersal Hall; the rhyming history of Anthony de Irwell averring that they could not sleep in their beds:—

"Terror o'er each hind would creep,
As, starting from his dreamy sleep,
He listened to the echoing shout
Which told him that the fiends were out."

Bold Avaranches was the next victim, and then came Eustace Dauntesey as chief of the fated mansion. Dauntesey wooed a maiden—no doubt a beautiful young lady, with a handsome fortune—who was ultimately won by a rival suitor. The wedding-day was fixed, and the prospect of their coming happiness was utter misery to Eustace. Having in his studious youth perfected himself in the black art—a genteel accomplishment in the dark ages—he drew a magic circle, even at the witching hour, and summoned the evil one to a consultation. The usual bargain was soon struck, the soul of Eustace being bartered for the coveted body of the maid; the compact to close at the lady's death, and the demon to remain meanwhile by the side of Dauntesey in the form of an elegant "self," or genteel companion. Eustace and his dear one (in a double sense) stood before the altar in due course, and the marriage ceremony was completed. On stepping out of the sacred edifice the elements were found to be unfavourable. The flowers strewed before their feet stuck to their wet shoes, and the torch of Hymen refused to burn brightly in a soaking shower; Arrived within his festive hall, the ill-fortune of Eustace took another shape. His bride began to melt away before his eyes. Familiar as he was with magic, here was a mystery beyond his comprehension. Something is recorded about a holy prayer, a sunny beam, and an angel train, bearing her slowly to a fleecy cloud, in whose bosom she became lost to earth. Taken altogether, the affair was a perfect swindle in its bearings upon Eustace. Awakened to consciousness by a touch from his sinister companion, Dauntesey saw a yawning gulf at his feet, and felt himself gradually going in a direction exactly the reverse of that taken by his bride of an hour.—Procter's "Our Turf, Stage, and Ring."