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You are in: Lancashire > History > Local landmarks > Local landmarks: Samlesbury Hall

The exterior of Samelsbury Hall

Local landmarks: Samlesbury Hall

Simon Entwistle tells a story of young love, betrayal and murder in a medieval manor house...

These past ten years I have conducted guided ghost walks in Lancashire... I am not a clairvoyant or medium, just someone who really enjoys local history and ghost stories.

In those ten years I have visited some of Lancashire's most haunted buildings, from Chingle Hall to Hollingshead. Undoubtedly my favourite location is the Grade 1 listed  Samlesbury Hall. This gorgeous building has to be a national treasure, and I have had the honour of providing guided tours for tourists from all over the world. If you were to have a league of ghost sightings in the United Kingdom, then the hall would be the Liverpool or Manchester United of the most haunted building in the country!

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

Samlesbury Hall was built way back in the year 1325 by Gilbert de Southworth for his bride to be. Sadly that year Robert the Bruce set fire to all the buildings in his path stretching down the River Rbble from Clitheroe to Preston. Southworth decided to rebuild the hall and place a huge moat around it, to ward of any more attacks from the Scots.  The Southworths were ardent Catholics and their love of the Roman Catholic faith was to cost them dearly.

After 1536 King Henry outlawed the Catholic faith as he had a problem with the pope.  This may have been due to his speed of finding various wives! The Southworths lost their beautiful home due to their refusal to accept any other faith than Catholicism.

The next family to own the Hall were called the Bradalls, I think it's fair to say they were vandals... wooden panelling found its way up to Conningshead in Cumbria, and window sills taken from Whalley Abbey were installed in the Hall. For a while the building was used as a hand loom factory then a public house and for a short while a school for girls. Towards the mid 1850s the Hall was in danger of falling into dereliction, when the Harrison family purchased the Hall, and it was this family who really saved this national treasure by ploughing huge amounts of money into its restoration.

The Harrisons held many a lavish party and the great Charles Dickens spent a night at the Hall as a guest of the family.

Simon does his stuff on a ghost tour

Simon does his stuff on a ghost tour

In the late 1890s a gentleman called Frederick Baines obtained the Hall, and like his predecessors, he also injected a vast amount of money into the Hall's upkeep. Baines was the high sheriff of Lancashire and Mayor of Blackburn. He passed away in the early part of the 20th century and this is when the Hall probably experienced its saddest period of neglect, it looked in a very sorry state. Local builders gathered like a pack of vultures to take away the beams and stone for use in future buildings. This is when the Friends of the Hall were formed - and they are still here today.

To run a historical building of this magnitude you need to organise many functions, and the events that take place in the hall are all designed to make the building pay for itself - weddings, auctions, craft fairs and in my case guided ghost tours.

The Hall spans seven centuries... there has been a beheading of a Catholic priest by soldiers in the employment of King Henry VIII, the murder of young de Houghton from nearby Houghton Towers and his serf, a Victorian suicide, and two suspicious deaths in World War II.

The most famous ghost story relating to the building is that of Lady Dorethea, the White Lady, and her story could come straight out of a Mills and Boon book! Let's turn the clock back to the year 1426, and a warm summer afternoon... Lady Dorethea  walks on to the lawns in front of the Hall and can hear in the distance the sound of a galloping horse. She looks up and notices a very handsome young lad - young de Hoghton. Their eyes meet, and both become instantly attracted to each other.

Dorothea's father is horrified as young de Houghton is a Protestant. He tells his daughter 'you will never see him again, If you do I will have you banished and sent to France to live with the nuns.' If anything this fuels their love and they meet in private in the dead of night in the little forest next to the Hall.

Dorothea's father warns her again, 'I will not accept a Protestant in my home.' He tells Dorothea's brothers to watch her movements. One beautiful moonlit night she crept out of the Hall and made her way to the little forest. There she found young Houghton he kissed her passionately and hugged her, he then produced an engagement ring, and proposed. As the word 'yes' left her lips de Houghton was pounced on by Dorothea's brothers who cruelly cut the lad's throat in front of her. She was dragged back in to the building with de Houghton's fresh blood spattered on her face. She screamed and screamed. The following day she was sent to France.

The Long Gallery

The Long Gallery

The poor girl never ate, slept or drank again and died of a broken heart two weeks after the love of her life was so cruelly taken from her.

Sightings of the ghost of Dorothea have taken place over the years, always in the same area on the road and next to the yew tree and horse chestnut tree. She will stare at the ground and cry hysterically. My favourite sighting took place in the year 1878, when the towns of Preston and Blackburn were experiencing cotton riots, and as a result troops were billited in both towns. The officers had the great pleasure of having the Long Gallery at Samlesbury for their quarters. Colonel Wolsley South Wales Borderers had just dined with his fellow officers, and turned in for the night when he became aware of the sound of crying. 'It's not one of my men' he said 'sounds like a woman to me.' He opened the curtains next to his bed, and looked outside on to the lawns, and there in the bright moonlight he could clearly see a female shape, standing next to the yew tree and horse chestnut.

He dressed quickly and ran across the lawns shouting 'marm can I help you?' The figure turned around and the Colonel was deeply shocked and indeed horrified to notice that the shape had no face just a hollow cavity. He swallowed deeply reaching for his pistol and ran back in side the Hall. He had a stiff drink from his flask. The Colonel had experienced the horrors of war in the Crimea, he had seen much bloodshed but had never witnessed anything paranormal before.

The following morning he had breakfast with the Harrisons and told them his story. They laughed and told him 'don't worry Colonel you have seen the White Lady, Lady Dorethea Southworth.'

You may ask why does she visit the yew tree and horse chesnut tree? Well way back in the 1880s workmen employed on the Preston Blackburn trunk road dug drainage channels near the lawns of Samlesbury Hall and found two skeletons buried side by side. It has been said but never confirmed that on one of the skeleton's fingers was lady Dorthea's engagement ring. It is believed that this was the final resting place of young de Houghton so cruelly murdered by Dorethea's Brothers all those years ago.

Article sent in by website user Simon Entwistle

The views expressed on this page are those of the contributor and the opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the BBC.


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last updated: 29/04/2008 at 09:27
created: 25/04/2008

Have Your Say

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Fiona Wilkins(nee Johnstone)
I am led to believe that the Johnstone's owned Samlesbury Hall at some point. Can you clarify this please

Ameera Malik
very intresting story i enjoyed reading it!! ive been past that house many times as i live in blackburn, i would like to see the white lady also very said story as well.

Samlesbury Hall is No1 for catching ghost photos and all things ghostlike!Simon is a true enthusiast good luck to him.and all involved in ghost tours at the hall.

I would like to see more white lady

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