Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c./Part 1/Barcroft Hall and the Idiot's Curse


The Barcrofts of Barcroft were for many generations a most respectable Lancashire family. The Hall is not more than a mile from Townley, and the fine estate by which it is surrounded must have been often coveted by their more ancient and wealthy neighbours. Barcroft is still a good specimen of the later Tudor style, and its ample cellarage not only conveys an idea of the liberal hospitality of its former owners, but has given occasion for a tradition which is not to the credit of one of the last possessors. The tradition states that one of the heirs to Barcroft was either an idiot or imbecile; that he was fastened by a younger brother with a chain in one of the cellars, and that he was there starved to death. This younger brother reported the heir as dead long before he was released from his sufferings, and thus obtained possession of the property. It is added, that during one of his lucid intervals, the prisoner pronounced a curse upon the family of the Barcrofts, to the effect that the name should perish for ever, and that the property should pass into other hands. Some rude scribblings on one of the walls of the cellars are still pointed out as the work of the captive; and his curse is said to have been fulfilled in the person of Thomas Barcroft, who died in 1688 without male issue.[1] After passing through the hands of the Bradshaws, the Pimlots, and the Isherwoods, the property was finally sold to Charles Towneley, Esq., the celebrated antiquary, in 1795.

  1. In Dr Whitaker's pedigree of this family, William Barcroft, a lunatic, is stated to have died in 1641. His elder brother, Robert, died in 1647. His younger brother, Thomas, had one son, who died in 1642, and five daughters.