Tales of Britain and Ireland
Tales of Britain and Ireland

This episode is the first of two looking at some legends from the nearly 2000 year old city of Manchester, The Venice of the North, Cottonopolis, Madchester, with a name seeming likely to originate with a word meaning u0022Breast-like hillu0022.

34: Manchester 2, Manchester Unite-Dead
byTales of Britain and Ireland.

“Which, on a closer examination, presented the frightful outline of a human skull!”

Hartshead Pike
Hartshead Pike – doesn’t actually feature in the Heartshead story but it’s close by!

A second episode featuring tales from Manchester.

Three stories with a particular emphasis on the post-mortem, with a light dusting of Boggarts and faeries to keep things interesting.

There’s a very picky skull, a very strange clock, and a very scary funeral.

It also features the first kind of true story ever to feature on the podcast.

“I would like to live in Manchester, England. The transition between Manchester and death would be unnoticeable”

Mark Twain
Stories in summary (Warning – contains spoilers!)

The stories in brief, without the detail or discussion – not a transcript.

If you’ve already listened and just want a refresh, only want the bare bones of the stories, or really don’t care about spoilers then please do click below to read on…

The Skull of Wardley Hall
The New Hartshead Boggart
The Manchester Mummy

Wardley Hall Skull

You can find the take of the Diocese of Salford on the skull story on their website here: Diocese of Salford – Wardley Hall.

The take away really is that it belonged to St. Father Ambrose Barlow and not Roger Downes, as the story would have it. Father Ambrose was a Manchester born monk and catholic priest who lived from 1585 – 1641, at a time when being Catholic was highly illegal and very dangerous.

But Ambrose was dedicated to his faith. He preached to a local flock of faithful Catholics for a time, but eventually the inevitable occurred and Father Ambrose was captured by a mob, thrown in jail in Lancaster castle and executed.

And his skull ended up in that most unusual of locations where it remains till this day.

In 1970 Ambose was declared a saint a long with a number of other Catholics executed during the English reformation. A so now his skull is a proper Catholic relic of a Saint and martyr, the kind of relic common in catholic countries but very unusual to find in England.

(Photo credit top left image of Wardley Hall Keith Williamson, CC BY-SA 2.0)

If you happen to want more information about Screaming Skulls across the UK then this website gives a summary of a few: Burials and Beyond – A Short history of British Screaming Skulls

Thomas Barritt

I touched briefly on Thomas Barritt during the Skull story. He’s an interesting character for sure, with his love of antiquarianism, his saddlers shops and his cork leg.

If you want to know more about him there’s a whole youtube series on him by Dr Peter N. Lindfield that starts off with the video below:

Hannah Beswick

Alas despite much searching I didn’t turn up any public domain images of the mummy itself so instead feast your eyes on weird as hell Charles White, and a mummy unwrapping party, which was a whole thing.

Santa Compaña

This is really nothing to do with the podcast episode and not even mentioned on it. However when looking for public domain images of a ghostly funeral (which sadly I did not manage to do) I went down a bit of Wiki hole on the Santa Compaña (The Holy Company), sometimes known by the more evocative names hostis antiquus (ancient host) and As da nuite (The Night ones).

This is a northern Spanish legend which tells of a parade of candle carrying souls of the dead, who wander a parish after midnight visiting the homes of those who are soon to die.

There are a few similarish stories in UK and Irish folklore, but the Santa Compaña is particularly distinguished by being led by a living person, in a trance. They are an unwilling, unknowing participant, cursed to lead this parade in a trance each night.

The living leader carries a cross and a cauldron of holy water and if they can somehow hand over the cross and cauldron to another who has the misfortune to witness the company then they can escape the curse. But if not they will waste away and eventually die due to the burden of the night time activity.

Most people cannot see the dead – just the mortal leader, though there are a few exceptions for those generally more in touch with the spirit world.

It certainly like mental or physical illnesses with no known cause have helped form the legend, though that is but one interpretation and element to it.

Anyway not super relevant to Manchester but I did some reading on it, so thought I’d share!

Selected Sources

Musical credits for Episode 34: Manchester Unite-Dead

Sign up on Patreon for extra episodes and bonus content
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Tales of Britain and Ireland!

Welcome to Tales of Britain & Ireland: A podcast telling folktales, myths and legends from across Britain and Ireland. Hosted by Graeme Cooke.

Following the links below to find out more:

About the podcast
About the website

Where to begin?

All episodes
My favourite episodes

Other odds and sods:

Folklorist Biographies
Podcast recommendations
Failed memes for Elven Queen-abducted Teens

Social Share Buttons and Icons powered by Ultimatelysocial