- Your Memories -
of the Borough of Rochdale

 

Brian Clegg's Memories of Clegg Hall

Brian Clegg © Brian Clegg

GETTING TO CLEGG HALL

From the Halifax Road (A58) between Rochdale and Littleborough (heading towards Littleborough) take the right turn at the traffic lights into Smithy Bridge Road (first right after the left turn to Birch Hill Hospital - Birch Road) and the BP garage. Follow Smithy Bridge Road down the hill and up the other side, crossing the railway line. Shortly after, turn right into the small Little Clegg Road (opposite a builders suppliers). Park in the road. Continue on foot down Little Clegg Road. At the end it appears to enter a farmyard. Continue, and the road (still tarmac, but potholed) bends left then right and heads off over the hill. Follow it through fields and then through a cobbled section with a disused factory on either side. Immediately after, Clegg Hall is on the left. A row of Victorian terraced houses starts immediately after it, probably dating from when the Hall was a pub. The walk takes 10 minutes.

The Hall has deteriorated significantly since I last saw it in the 1970s. The roof has completely gone, though the walls remain full height. The handsome front porch has disappeared (presumably now gracing a new house). The front of the house is fenced off, with stunted trees covering much of the frontage. Unfortunately, there are now high gates preventing you from getting round to the back of the house (perhaps for safety), so it was not possible to see if the carving remained over the back door. All in all it was a sad sight, but worth the walk if you are nearby.

POSSIBLE RESTORATION

According to an article last year in one of the Rochdale papers, there is a proposal to restore Clegg Hall and make it a national waterways museum (it is right by a canal). I haven't heard anything about this since.

GENERAL HISTORY REMARKS

In thinking about Clegg Hall, you have to bear in mind that the 'Clegg' in the name of the current hall probably refers to the location (Little Clegg or Great Clegg) rather than the family - it was built by a Theophilus Ashton in the 17th century, and I've never seen anything that suggests that it has ever been lived in by a Clegg. It is (rather vaguely) on the site of earlier Clegg Hall(s??) whose occupants were Cleggs.

I have seen it said somewhere that the first know Cleggs, Bernulf (and his wife Quernilda) de Clegg were in the Domesday book. That would seem sensible dating from the names, as they are all Anglo Saxon apart from the 'de' which is a Norman bolt-on, typical of the period before Norman Christian names became common. The Clegg site, though, refers to them as possibly of King Stephen's reign, which was a bit later. Next time I get the chance, I must have a look in the appropriate Domesday book entries.

The Clegg Hall boggart (as the ghost is better known) is usually placed at the time of one of the Crusades. The longest version I've seen was a very romanticised version in a book called In Olden Days written by a local vicar (Revd. Oakley) in the early years of this century. It reckoned that the master of the house went off to the Crusades, and while he was away the wicked uncle crept to the house (possibly through a secret passage from Stubley Hall), got hold of the children (a boy and a girl) and threw them over the battlements into the moat of what was presumably a fortified house. I think (though it's a long time since I saw the book: unfortunately our family copy was lost and I haven't managed to track down another) the idea was the uncle thought the father wasn't coming back from the Crusades. But in the end he did. The brother came to do the same dirty deed to the children's father, but as he was poised to kill him too, one of the children's voice was heard calling out 'look out father' (or words to that effect) and the father awoke and killed his brother instead. Ever since, allegedly, these phantom children have been heard issuing warnings.

I have two books which refer to the ghost and later uses of the current building. One is Harland & Wilkinson's Lancashire Legends, published in 1873. This says 'After many changes of occupants it is now in part used as a country alehouse; other portions of it are inhabited by the labouring classes, who find employment in that populous manufacturing district. It is the property of the Fentons, by purchase from the late John Entwisle Esq of Foxholes.' The other, Lancashire Legends by Katherine Eyre (1972) says that from 1818 to 1869 it was a public house called the Black Sloven, the name of a favourite hunting mare of legendary speed which belonged to the former owner, Mr Charles Turner. He died in 1733. It says that 'The Boggart Chamber' became a place to be avoided (though it's not clear if this was in the pre-1620s house or not). It also says that 'during the Commonwealth era, there were hints of counterfeiting activities in the vaults and cellars of Clegg Hall.' That's quite interesting, as it was common for smugglers and counterfeiters to use tales of ghosts to scare off locals from seeing what was going on.

My mother remembers the building still being occupied in the late 40s/ early 50s by multiple occupants, rather as Harland & Wilkinson describes it. I suspect that it wasn't used any more from then as it became unsafe (I have some vague memory of someone being hurt falling through the floor) and too expensive to keep up. I suspect ownership simply goes with the land either of the nearby farm or whoever owns the now equally derelict factory built near its left hand side.