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Ghosts of Towton


YORKSHIRE is well known as the haunt of more than one ghostly tale, but reports of an apparent new visitation has got the locals chattering near famous Towton battlefield.

A spirit nicknamed ‘Nancy’ is reportedly causing minor chaos at the Crooked Billet, the pub at the edge of the site of England’s bloodiest battle site.

Licensee Richard Tunnicliffe and family say they have been disturbed by more than six apparently supernatural occurrences in the past 20 weeks, and are putting the events down to paranormal activity, possibly associated with the phantom-influenced history of the infamous battleground.

Richard, wife Joanne, and Richard’s father David, have only been in situ for five months at the pub – which has a reputation for ghostly goings on linked with the War of Roses – but claim they have been spooked by objects being moved and being disturbed by an apparent poltergeist.

While such reported activity is normally dismissed as a hoax in the general run of the mill, the reports have been so persistent that they are starting to attract the attention of locals, members of the Towton Battlefield Society and historians, who have nearby links with Towton, the scene of bloody slaughter in the War of the Roses period.

Richard says:

“We’ve experienced five or six separate incidents which although it sounds completely impossible,  we can only put down to a presence or a poltergeist possibly existing in the pub.

“We’ve not seen anything but on one occasion some cooking utensils which were hung up in the kitchen crashed across the kitchen floor while we were out of kitchen; and a heavy kitchen ‘steel’  has been moved into the middle of the floor from an impossible position.

“Just a few days ago some cordial bottles were found arranged on the floor of the bar in a rectangle shape when we came downstairs one morning; and similarly just a week last Sunday, we came downstairs to find beer mats had been scattered across the floor of the snug in a pattern.

“Events are starting to happen with such regularity now that we are starting to get used to odd things happening  - and in fact are starting to anticipate such.”

Richard’s father David says:

“There nothing malicious going on but it is just a bit mischievous – it more devilment than anything. We’ve got used to saying “Oh, it’s ‘Nancy’…if anything odd happens.  

“It’s a series of things which keep happening which are not particularly remarkable in themselves but when put together we being to wonder if there is something odd going on, especially given the pub and nearby battleground’s history.

“One client has reported seeing two medieval coachmen sitting at the end of the bar in a three-corner hat; we also live directly opposite the old pre medieval church of St Mary’s at Lead, and not long ago we saw a glowing light emanating from inside the church, at 4 am in the morning.

“The church is hardly used as it is of historical rather than functional significance largely and I suppose it could have been someone inside lighting candles or a reflection but it certainly got us thinking  what could have been going on at that time of the morning.

 “This is a very old pub – it used to have its own brew house in the olden days and being literally on the doorstep of the battle ground, yes of course we have heard tales of spirits.

“I’m not a believer in ghosts – I once thought I saw a relative of mine when I was younger – but this has got us a bit spooked. Things have dropped into vats of gravy from strange distances, and bowls and vats of vegetables  have been tipped over when no-one was in the room, when on apparently safe worktops. It’s all very odd. Our dogs normally pick up on something  but haven’t in this case.”

Author and historian Peter Algar, an associate of the Towton Battlefield Society, which has its headquarters next to the Crooked Billet, says:

“The Crooked Billet has strong associations with the infamous battle, at which some 28,000 men are reported to have been killed.  The Crooked Billet name is said by some to represent the “ragged staff” emblem of the Earl of Warwick, who reputedly camped out at the site on the eve of the battle.”

“One traditional report about the Crooked Billet from the past suggests that the ghost of Edward IV, apparently carousing on the night before the battle, has been heard at the pub, although this is largely discredited as historians tend to think Edward would have been elsewhere on the eve of the battle. But the pub certainly seems to have a ghostly precedent.”

The Tunnicliffes haven’t ruled out calling in a medium or even a priest, but are continuing to wait for the next appearance of ‘Nancy’.

  • Towton ghost soldiers are still said to stalk the ravines and woods near Cock Beck, the stream which reputedly which ran red with the blood of the slaughtered, after the infamous battle in 1461.