Affetside Article in local paper

A skull in Affetside
I think this may have been published in the Bury times or the local BoltonEvening News in the late 60's. However this clipping was kept by my mother Pat Martyn-Clark(nee Lomax) and deserves the light of Day! (Further info available at Anything in brackets are my additions) Cannot easily find a reference to Anne Thomas working for the Bury Times or the Bolton Evening News. The article is reproduced in its entirety.
A Skull at the Bar – written by Anne Thomas.
Licensee Mike Hilton has a skull for company behind the bar of his 15th Century inn at Affetside, near Bury. And it's a distinguished fragment of bone, a gruesome relic of a famous executioner who seemingly has a few unpleasant tricks up his ghostly sleeve.
A skull, black and polished with age, isn't something that you expect to see in your local pub.. But regulars at Affetside's ancient Pack Horse Inn are used to it.. From a special shelf high in the back wall of the bar, this grim relic surveys the nightly festivities with a tooth smile or a grisly grimace , depending on where you stand. It's not just any old bit of bone either, but all that's left of a man who earned himself a footnote in many a history book. “That's George Whewell”, explained Mike Hilton, “The man who executed the Earl of Derby.”

Staunchly Royalist Lord Derby led a 2000 strong army in support of the King. Defeated near Wigan, he was later captured and and sentenced to death at Chester Castle. But Parliament thought revenge would be sweeter if the execution was held in Bolton, where the King's troops had earlier taken bloody reprisals in the town. 

Ye old Man and Scyth - note the inscription over the door!
this is situated in a square with an informative cross -
The Parish church is yards away to the right -
seems a good place for an execution!
Lord Derby was brought to an inn where he could see the scaffold through a window. There was a delay before he was led to the block. No-one wanted to be the executioner, until George Whewell – his family was massacred at Bolton – (It seemed his family were dissenters) volunteered to do the job.. Lord Derby felt the edge of the axe and gave him money”This is all I have,” he said “do your job well.”(1651)
George Whewell came to a similar end later and his head, thinks Mike Hilton, “was brought to the Pack Horse immediately after his execution. He was an Edgeworth man ( a village only two miles away, and perhaps the inn was one of his favourite haunts.”

George's skull is still supposed to do a spot of haunting. A local man who stole the head and left it on his bedroom dresser paid the price. He claimed he was woken at 3 am by a blow on his nose. “ I sat up and saw something bobbing up and down, like a great moth, in a ghostly blue colour, shining like phosphorous and with two blazing red eyes.”
And if the vision was nothing more than the result of a late cheese supper, it was enough to to make him return the skull to its usual resting place at the pack horse. Mike Hilton admits to treating the skull with respect. “We don't tempt fate by taking it out of the building,” he told me. “We’ve never seen any ghostly figure, but we do hear odd noises, especially footsteps in the room above the bar. Two doors opened of their own accord. One was an outside door and could have been blown by the wind. But the second door was a sliding door into the little room by the bar. It was a Saturday lunch time and the regulars stared , drank up and hurriedly left without a word.”

The Pack Horse was a flourishing inn over 500 years ago, when its front door opened onto the main pack horse road to the north. Affetside was a market village , and later developed as a mining community – the row of cottages next to the inn were built for miner working narrow drift mines nearby.

The stone column and round base that jut awkwardly into the road are a mystery. An old market cross, perhaps, or a pilgrims shrine? Or maybe a mile post for the Roman road a few feet away underground, or a marker for a Roman staging camp on the way to Ribchester? “ They excavated the the Roman Road a few years ago” recalled Mike, “but there wasn't much to see, just a few cobbles.”
In his snugly renovated cottage Alan Needham, offered another explanation. “ As a tall post on high ground it could have been a long distance marker for packhorse traffic, or it could just mark the the fact that Affetside is traditionally the half way point between London and Edinburgh.”
He also suggests, with a little tongue in cheek, an explanation for the village name . “Affetside, with a little imagination, could be a corruption of Half Each Side, meaning the half way point between the two cities.”
Alan is chairman of the Affetside Society, a sure sign that it is no longer the quiet, slow moving , out of the way place that it was not many years ago. Newcomers have moved in, buying the old cottages, renovating and restoring with vigour, modernising and improving and in the process sending property prices smartly upwards. We aim to preserve the village and improve it where we can.” Alan explained.


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  2. I visited the Pack Horse Pub in Affetside, a few weeks ago, mainly to see the skull, which may be that of an ancestor of mine, as my family is from the Bury / Blackburn / Darwen area, and my maiden name was Lomax. Barbara Van Harn (Canada)

    1. Hi Barbara I am also researching my family tree and I also think I am related to George


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