In the third volume of his History … of Durham (1823), Robert Surtees tells ‘an old story’ also recorded by others concerning the history of the manor of Bulmer.
This was given by Sir Antony Bec or Bek, bishop and count palatine, who held the see of Durham from 1283 to 1310, to an infamous outlaw, Hugh de Pontchardon. On account of his many wicked deeds, ‘Black Hugh’ had been driven out of the king’s court and had come to the North to live by stealing. Bishop Bec, who had made use of him in war on Scotland, granted him the lands of Thickley, south-east of Bishop’s Auckland, thereafter called Thickley Punchardon, and made him his chief huntsman.
Black Hugh died before Bishop Bec, and some time after his death, when the bishop was hunting deer in the Forest of Galtres, in Bulmere Wapentake, North Yorkshire, suddenly Pontchardon galloped past him seated on a white horse. ‘Hugh, what maketh thee here?’ asked the bishop. Black Hugh answered never a word but lifted up his cloak and showed his ribs ‘set with bones’. None of the hunters saw him except the bishop, and he called up his dogs and rode away. This Hugh was known to the ‘silly people’ of Galtres as le gros veneur (‘the big huntsman’). He was seen twice after that by ordinary people before the trees were felled.
For other spectral huntsmen, see PETERBOROUGH, Huntingdonshire and Peterborough.