OS Grid Reference: SD 62622 37892. At the northern end of Written Stone Lane at Grimsargh, near Longridge, Lancashire, is a very curious and mysterious stone slab, with an even stranger inscribed message carved onto it and the name Ralph Radcliffe (1655), although this very large lump of gritstone might be much older. This inscribed stone, known locally as ‘The Written Stone’, stands at the side of the lane close by the entrance to Written Stone Farm, originally called Cottam House. It became known as ‘the cursed stone’ after very strange and ghostly happenings took place when the farmer decided to try and move it, but he had to return the stone to its original position when ‘all hell let loose’, according to the legend. To reach this site from the east side of Longridge: head onto the B6243 for a couple of miles in the direction of Hurst Green. Passing the two Spade Mill reservoirs on your left continue for a short distance, then take the next (left) turning up Written Stone Lane; the stone is in the bank beside the entrance to Written Stone farm, on the left-hand side.
The Written Stone is a huge long lump of sandstone measuring 9 feet in length, 2 feet wide and 18 inches in depth, and is said to weigh several tonnes. There is a long inscription along the side of the stone in large letters dating back to the mid-17th Century. The message reads: RAVFFE: RADCLIFFE: LAID: THIS STONE TO LYE: FOR: EVER: A.D. 1655. It is, according to the legend, said that a terrible murder was committed here. The victim of this murder began to plague the conspirators – the Radcliffe family – who lived at Cottam House. Several members of Ralph Radcliffe’s family began to die in strange circumstances as if they were cursed in some way. In the hope of atoning for this terrible murder Mr Radcliffe had a large stone carved and an inscription written onto it; the hope being, perhaps, that the restless spirit would be calmed. But travelers going along the lane, which local people called Boggart Lane, began to report strange happenings – loud screeching sounds, bumps and bangs, ghostly appari-tions, people being pinched and their clothing being messed about with. All this was simply put down to a poltegiest trying to cause trouble.
Many years later when the Radcliffe family had moved away from Cottam House its new tenant decided to try and move the large stone so that he could put it into use as a “buttery stone” in his dairy. However moving the stone proved very difficult. It took six horses and many local people to actually move it. But during the removal a number of persons were injured and much noise seemed to eminate from the stone itself. When the said stone was finally moved to its new resting place the problems continued – anything placed upon it just fell off or was thrown off by unseen hands. During that first night “all hell let loose”, with loud bangs and clatterings, and other horrid noises. The next morning the farmer decided he’d had enough and the six horses and local folk were asked to move the stone back to its original site but, oddly enough this time only one horse was required – the stone almost moving of its own accord – seemingly the demonic spirit was eager to get back from whence it came and, from that day onwards the stone has not been moved or touched, according to the Legend. So peace and quiet returned to the country lane. Today, people walking past the stone seem unaware of its terrible history, but I wonder whether anyone dares to touch the stone or get too close to it. Let it be ‘a warning’ to anybody who might even consider trying to move, or take the stone away, from its “place of eternal rest” and, if you do, be ready for the consequences, or not.
Janet & Colin Bord (1980) tell about a doctor riding his horse along Written Stone Lane: “Late one night he was riding past the Written Stone…….when his horse became hysterical, and took off at a gallop, only stopping two miles further on. The doctor must have been feeling especially bold, for, despite this adventure, he decided to return to the Written Stone and face whatever had frightened the horse. He rode up to the stone and issued a challenge, whereupon, in the words of Kathleen Eyre, describing the encounter in her Lancashire Legends, a shapeless mass materialized, seized him, plucked him from the saddle and almost squeezed the breath from his body. As soon as he was able, the doctor left the spot at a gallop.”
In recent times it has been suggested by a few people that the ‘Written Stone’ was brought down from the fell where it had perhaps been a standing stone, or that maybe it had once formed part of a stone circle, and as such it might have been a pagan altar-stone. Another theory is that it could possibly lay on the site of an earlier standing stone, according to Janet & Colin Bord (1980). I have heard it said that it might actually be an outlier. But from which stone circle did it come? as there are no such ancient monuments like that anywhere near here, so it must have travelled some distance. Written Stone Lane, also known as Boggart Lane, forms part of, or intersects with, a Roman road that links the forts of Ribchester and Lancaster.
The British Listed Buildings (BLB) Source ID number is:- 1147440. See Link below.
Sources/references and related websites:-
Bord, Janet & Colin, The Secret Country — More Mysterious Britain, Granada Publishing Limited, St Alban’s, Herts, 1980.
Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia, Volume Nine, The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1993.
Fields, Kenneth, Lancashire Magic & Mystery, Sigma Leisure, Wilmslow, Cheshire, 1998.
Howarth, Ken, Ghosts, Traditions & Legends of Old Lancashire, Sigma Leisure, Wilmslow, Cheshire, 1993.
© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.