Dean Prior

In traditional tales of exorcism, the troublesome ghost is usually a member of the local gentry, but at Dean Prior (also called Dean-combe) it is a mere weaver. It is not clear when he lived – only that the story about him already existed in 1850, when a certain ‘R.J.K.’ sent an account to Notes and Queries of his banishment to the Hound’s Pool at the foot of a cascade in a narrow valley in this parish:

There once lived in the hamlet of Dean Combe a weaver of great fame and skill. After long prosperity he died, and was buried. But the next day he appeared sitting at the loom in his chamber, working diligently as when he was alive. His sons applied to the parson, who went accordingly to the foot of the stairs, and heard the noise of the weaver’s shuttle in the room above. ‘Knowles!’ he said, ‘Come down, this is no place for thee.’ ‘I will,’ said the weaver, ‘as soon as I have worked out my quill’ (the ‘quill’ is the shuttle full of wool). ‘Nay,’ said the vicar, ‘thou has been long enough at thy work; come down at once!’ – So when the spirit came down, the vicar took a handful of earth from the churchyard, and threw it in its face. And in a moment it became a black hound. ‘Follow me,’ said the vicar; and it followed him to the gate of the wood. And when they came there, it seemed as if all the trees in the wood were ‘coming together’, so great was the wind.

Then the vicar took a nutshell with a hole in it, and led the hound to the pool below the waterfall. ‘Take this shell,’ he said; ‘and when thou shalt have dipped out the pool with it, thou mayst rest – not before.’ And at midday, or at midnight, the hound may still be seen at his work.

Theo Brown wrote in 1979, ‘I have myself seen the site where the weaver’s house once stood. The Hound’s Pool is in a dark impenetrable thicket, but the locals still say that when the stream is in spate you can hear an odd grinding noise; this, of course, is the hound scraping the bottom with his nutshell!’



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008