In 2002 Doug Pickford published Macclesfield Mysterious & Macabre wherein lie several pages entitled ‘Terror at the Butley Ash’. The chapter referring to the pub at Butley tells of a strange incident which happened during the building of a turnpike road between Leek and Hazel Grove around the 1700’s, a recent blog also references the incident, so Thomas Castle decided to investigate.
Folklore and fables have forever captured our attention, probably because over the years, inevitably, they have been moulded into gripping and sometimes gruesome tales. This area has in the past been associated with pagan rituals; the stone circles at Alderley Edge are supposedly a tool of witchcraft so after researching the history of the name Butley Ash it comes as no surprise that a pagan deity may have once been at work in the vicinity.
Legends suggest that an ash tree which was located in Butley was once a place of pagan worship, although nothing remains concrete. Doug Pickford’s account says that during the construction of the road in this area an ancient burial site was unearthed which caused a number of the workers to stop as they felt they were desecrating the site while others wished to carry on. Because of this fighting broke out between the workers.
Doug Pickford writes “As the fighting was taking place, this Irish lad began to scream. As he screamed he rose in the air above the heads of the men and dropped into one particular pile of bones, which were crushed under his weight. He started to talk in a strange language, and as he did so a white horse from a nearby field galloped over and stopped by him, pawing at this body. Many of the men ran away and those that remained saw his body convulse and his life expire. As he died, a lightning bolt struck a nearby ash tree.” (Pickford, 2002)
Today the Butley Ash public house is a regular haunt for some locals, named after the famous ash tree is it actually the scene of a paranormal apparition? Landlady Helen Watters is sceptical about the possibility of ghosts, “It is an old building, it used to be a coach house and it is full of character, because of that inevitably you hear creaks and random sounds which could be mistaken for something they are not, although my partner Luke thinks otherwise.”
“I have experienced something twice now, once in the corridor upstairs and again in the corner of our upstairs kitchen”,
said Luke “I felt something poke me in the back, it was a firm poke, on the first occasion I thought it was Helen but she was downstairs at the time, the second time I was on my own in the pub. It is strange that it happened in the kitchen, our dog was a puppy at the time and we used to leave him in the kitchen but he would howl and bark, he is fine in any other room but every time we tried to leave him in there he would not settle. He used to stand in the corridor upstairs too and just stare straight ahead, as though he was looking at something.”
A number of strange happenings have taken place over the years at the Butley Ash, Helen recalled an incident the previous landlords had mentioned.
“The previous landlady and landlord mentioned something odd once. One evening they had decided to clean and polish the ornaments in the pub. Above the fireplace there used to be a collection of Toby Jugs and after cleaning them, and putting them away that evening, they came downstairs in the morning to find they had been placed specifically around a table beside the fireplace as though a group of people had been sat down drinking from them during the night They swore they had replaced them during the evening.”
Could this have been the work of the supernatural or merely forgetfulness?
“Our old cleaner said she had also seen something odd. She used to clean at night after the pub had closed and she managed
to take several photographs. If you look really closely you can possibly make out an old man and in one of them are the faces of three children. Of course they could be mistaken for tricks of the light and shadows but you never know.”
In the past some of the staff have
complained about their hair being pulled “It’s happened a couple of times”, said Luke. “One time we were just sat having a drink after the pub had closed and one of the girl’s shouted out. There was no one near her to have done it.”
People have heard there names whispered and footsteps in old parts of the pub. “The original cellar has been closed, and the trap door outside cemented over, and you cannot get to it from inside the pub, but people have said they have heard footsteps coming from down there, as though someone is walking around and moving things.”
Despite the possibility of living and working in a haunted pub Helen is still comfortable with the building. “I have been here forthree years now and it is not a scary building. It is warm, comfortable and accommodating. It might be different if it was a cold and dark place. I do not know about the hair pulling, I think it could be a physical reaction to something but I suppose you don’t know until it happens to you. If there is a ghost it is a friendly and playful one.”
As this was being investigated by an internet blogger (www.ludchurch myblog.wordpress.com) some years ago a car came off the road and ploughed into the front of the building. Interestingly, only a few weeks ago around the time of the A6 road works this happened again, and in the same place.
At the time work was being carried out on gas pipes which meant having to dig up the area. Is this relevant when considering the story of the construction worker in c1700? And is there really an ancient burial site in this area?