In the village of Dilworth, on the slope of Longridge Fell, a steep-sided lane leads to what is known either as Written Stone Farm or Rafe Radcliffe’s Farm. There, in the bank at the entrance to the farmyard, lies a massive stone, nine feet (3 m) long, two feet wide, and a foot thick, inscribed:
Rauffe: Radcliffe: laid: this:
stone: to lye: for: ever A.D. 1655:
The real reason for its presence has long been forgotten, but a flourishing legend has grown up around it. Local writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries all agree that it was set there to pin down an especially troublesome boggart, which was a ghost rather than a household spirit. The account by John Harland and T. T. Wilkinson in 1873 states:
Tradition declares this spot to have been the scene of a cruel and barbarous murder, and it is stated that this stone was put down in order to appease the restless spirit of the deceased, which played its nightly gambols long after the body had been ‘hearsed in earth’. A story is told of one of the former occupants of Written Stone Farm, who, thinking that the stone would make a capital ‘buttery stone’, removed it into the house and applied it to that use. The result was, that the indignant or liberated spirit would never suffer his family to rest. Whatever pots, pans, kettles or articles of crockery were placed on the stone, were tilted over, their contents spilled, and the vessels themselves kept up a clattering dance the livelong night, at the beck of the unseen spirit.
The stone was of course replaced. Twentieth-century writers such as Jessica Lofthouse, Terence Whitaker and Ken Howarth add details that show that the story has developed further traditional motifs. It is said, for instance, that removing the stone was extremely difficult. No one horse could shift it, nor two, nor even four; a team of six had to be harnessed to haul it out of the ground and drag it from the gate to the dairy – yet on the return journey the stone was easily drawn by a single horse. Once it was replaced, a holly hedge was planted along the lane for greater security, to bind the boggart so long as there are green leaves on the tree.