Towering over the upper reaches of Lathkill Dale, near Over Haddon, is a limestone crag formerly known as Fox Tor. Murray’s Handbook for … Derbyshire (1868), after describing how the River Lathkill issues from a cavern in the limestone opposite Parson’s Tor, says briefly, ‘This derived its [present] name from a sad accident that befell the parson of Monyash.’
This was the Revd Robert Lomas, incumbent of Monyash, found dead on the tor on 12 October 1776. Already by the time the Handbook was written, a ghost story had become attached to this true event. Llewellynn Jewitt, in The Ballads and Songs of Derbyshire (1867), reprints a ballad that had first appeared in The Reliquary in 1864. Written by the Revd W. R. Bell, a former curate of Bakewell, it was founded ‘partly on facts, and partly on local traditions’, and tells the following story.
After a night of disturbing and ominous dreams, the parson of Monyash set out on horseback for Bakewell on a Friday morning, arriving a little after midday. He had hoped to catch the vicar of Bakewell after morning service to have a word with him, but, as chance would have it, the vicar was called away immediately afterwards to attend a dying man. When he got back, he invited the parson of Monyash to dine, and it was six before the latter took his leave. The night grew darker as he rode on his way, the drizzling rain turned to sleet, and by the time he drew near Haddon Grove he was lost in thick mist on the moor. Dismounting, he led his horse, groping his way on. Arriving in the dark and obscurity on the brink of Fox Tor, the horse refused to move. The parson, not hearing the warning roar of the Lathkill above the noise of the gale, continued tugging the reins and, when the horse suddenly backed off and the reins snapped, fell headlong over the edge onto the rocks.
When he did not return, his servants, Hugh and Betty, were anxious – Betty remembering the old superstition concerning Fridays (‘A Friday venture’s no luck! I’ve heard say’), but Hugh trusting that his master was staying overnight safely with friends. Next morning, however, the truth of what had become of him was supernaturally revealed to them:
At dawn of next day, old Betty went forth
To milk the cow in the shed; –
And saw him sitting upon a large stone,
All pale, and mute – with bare head.
But a moment she turned her eyes away,
A fall she heard and a groan;
She looked again, but no Parson was there,
He’d vanished from off the stone!
The report of the ghost soon spread and a hunt for the parson was made. At length they found his body lying among bloodstain
Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson –
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008ed rocks at the foot of the tor and buried his corpse in Monyash churchyard.