Location: ROMAN BRIDGES, Hockenhull & HEADLESS WOMAN, Duddon
Date: 1st February 2009
Outside Temp: -2 c
Investigators Phil Hayes (Lead), Denis France, Paul Barrow and Nicola Railton
The Roman Bridges
The bridges are known locally as “ The Roman Bridges” but the present structures are thought to have been constructed in the latter part of the 15th Century. They get their name from the fact that Roman bridges of timber construction previously occupied this spot. They form part of a packhorse route that would have been the main thoroughfare from London to Chester and were necessary in order to allow travellers to cross the River Gowy and surrounding marshland. Reference to the significance of this packhorse route can be found throughout history. The Black Prince’s Register refers to “a grant of 20 shillings for the repair of the bridge of Hockenhull” and Ogibly’s Britannia Road Map of 1675 shows them clearly marked.
The Headless Woman, Duddon
The legend of the Headless Woman goes back to the time of the Civil War when Oliver Cromwell visited the area, his mission to wipe out the royalists. A family loyal to the king living at the nearby Hockenhull Hall fled in fear of their lives, leaving their maid Grace Trigg to look after all of the estates wealth. Grace, being a dutiful servant to the family took it upon herself to hide the sliver and finery somewhere for safekeeping. Grace was captured by Cromwell’s men and tortured to find out where she had hidden the valuables, but being a loyal servant to her masters she never told.
It is thought that Grace managed to escape her captors and attempted to run along the packhorse route known locally as ‘the Roman Bridges’. Somewhere along the Roman Bridges the soldiers recaptured her and it is said that this struggle resulted in her beheading.
One version of the tail states that the soldiers intended to slit her throat but the deed was carried out with such force that the result was a near beheading, leaving her body and head barely attached. Grace has been sighted walking with her head under her arm, along the old path from Hockenhull Hall to the public house now known as the Headless Woman
Some claim that Grace was attempting to reach a property in Duddon, situated near to where the Headless Woman public house now stands, others think that her body was dragged away by the soldiers and concealed in a ditch in the area now occupied by the pub.
Whichever version you favour, because of the cruel nature of her death, Grace is said to still wander the Roman Bridges, walk across the main road and enter the nearby public house, aptly named The Headless Woman. Her wretched torso carrying with it her decapitated head.
Unfortunately there is no documentary evidence to support this enduring legend.
Many bus drivers and motorists have seen a white figure walk from the nearby style and along the road. Some have even stopped, thinking that they have run someone over. Only to stop, get out and look back to see if they have injured a pedestrian only to see the figure fade away.
Other phenomena also come in the guise of what is thought to be a regular who died tragically while leaving the pub. Staff and patrons claim his ghost still wanders the pub long after the landlord calls ‘time’ of an evening.
The Roman Bridges and The Headless Woman Public House
Arrival at the Bridges 10.00pm, Sunday 1st February 2009
Outside Temperature -2 Celsius
We approached the bridges from the Cotton Edmunds direction. We walked across all three bridges then returned to the largest of the three, the middle bridge and also the one from which the path to Duddon begins.
Attempts were made to communicate with the spirit of Grace Trigg and EVP experiments were carried out and photographs taken. We then split into two groups, going in opposite directions along the packhorse route. Nicola and Paul heard the sound of a bell ringing nearby but no signs of any Church. Nicola then returned along the bridges to check if Denis and myself had heard the sounds. We hadn’t! Nicola described in which direction and type of sound was coming from, stating it came from in between the positions of the two groups and sounding like a hand bell. Paul then rejoined the group and corroborated the answers to the questions of direction and sound of the noise. No definitive cause for the bells could be found at that time. We then concluded our investigation of the bridges for that evening and headed for the Headless Woman pub.
Arrival at Headless Woman 11.00pm
Inside Temperature 18 Celsius
First impressions of the pub were that it had a warm, inviting atmosphere with a pleasant, modern décor and not the sixth most haunted pub in Britain as the storytellers lead us to believe.
We proceeded to set up the equipment for the long night ahead and take baseline readings in the various rooms of the pub. Making sure no high EMF readings were apparent which may cause hallucinations, headaches, nausea and even skin rash in extreme cases. Nicola and myself also did a sweep with the thermal imaging camera to rule out any cold spots and draughts. Night vision CCTV cameras, remote voice recorders and trigger objects were placed in the known hotspots. We also set up motion sensor still cameras that would be triggered if anything crossed their path.
Through research and discussions with staff it was decided to concentrate on the area around the pool table, a legendary chair in the inglenook that no locals will sit in, the ladies toilets - where customers have claimed that they have been shocked by the ghostly vision of Grace appearing behind them in the mirror, the dining room and an area near to the bar where the sounds of a running child’s footsteps had recently been witnessed by staff.
Paul and myself carried out the first vigil in the toilet area while Denis and Nicola investigated the poolroom. During these initial investigations nothing unusual was detected.
Denis, being the most sceptical one amongst us bravely spent some time sitting in the chair that the regulars avoid and invited the spirits to ‘do their worse’ but nothing was detected or felt and up to now as I write this report the spirits have still yet to convince him that the ‘haunted chair’ has any malevolent founding, well except a bad back which Denis attributed to the poor construction of the wooden chair. Well, he would!
The teams then moved location, with Paul and myself repositioning in the poolroom and Denis and Nicola setting up an EVP experiment in the area of the running footsteps. On playback, a gentle whistling was detected on the voice recorder, though both team members heard nothing at that time. During mine and Paul’s time in the poolroom we asked out and received knocking responses from one corner of the room. However we couldn’t get any ‘intelligent’ response i.e. two knocks for ‘yes’ and one for ‘no’. We ventured outside in the cold to see if anything was banging on the opposite side of the wall. It wasn’t a windy evening and there was nothing that could bang on the wall anyway. On further investigation this corner had previously been the site of an external door to the property.
Denis and Nicola then proceeded into the dining room where a slight drop in ambient temperature was apparent. This was double-checked using the thermal camera and we could see that it was down to the amount and large size of the windows in this area making the room colder.
Before concluding the night’s vigil Denis, Nicola and myself returned to the toilet area, leaving Paul in the poolroom. During this time Nicola became disoriented and dizzy which made her suddenly lose her footing. This was put down to the darkness and being just as tired as the rest of us. Two of us also, both independently, stated that one particular hanging picture gave the impression of being the face of a female but on closer inspection at a later time it did not contain such an image. Again, this was put down to suggestion, tiredness, reflections and glare from the night vision cameras playing tricks. At this point we decided to call it a night. Packed up all the equipment, thanked our hosts and went our separate ways to get some well-earned sleep.
The knocking and whistling sounds captured on this evening couldn’t be explained. No loose floorboards in the area to crack or ‘knock’ and no draughts to cause the whistling which was checked with the thermal camera. That, together with the recent accounts of ghostly footsteps only adds to the mysterious ambience of the building.
Whether or not this phenomena could be attributed to the tragic tale of the Headless Woman is doubtful as we cannot find any record of a woman named Grace Trigg living in the area or any solid evidence that a woman, headless or otherwise roams the pub after hours. The only evidence we do have are witness reports from passing motorists who have said that they thought they had run someone over, only to look back and see nothing there. There is also a possibility that it could be the ghost of an old patron, but again, no proof.
However, one of the motion detection cameras did take a strange picture…could it be the ghost of an inquisitive small child that had been heard only weeks earlier? None of us have an explanation as to who or what it is. If you have any ideas or even had any unexplainable experiences at The Headless Woman please get in touch.
Overall, this property has a warm, friendly and relaxed atmosphere. It was a wonderful opportunity to investigate two of Cheshire’s legendary sites. The Headless Woman especially for me, as it’s a location I’ve wanted to investigate for some time.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Kenny and Cath Pollard for inviting PRUK to the Headless Woman and hope we can return in the near future to continue our investigation and obtain definitive evidence that the Headless Woman is one of the most haunted pubs in Great Britain.