Timberbottom Farm (Turton Towers)

A pair of damaged skulls used to be displayed in a glass case in the fifteenth-century manor house of Turton Towers (now a museum), but they are currently kept locked away in a storeroom. They are often referred to in guidebooks as the Timberbottom Skulls, from the name of a nearby farm where they were kept for many years on the mantelpiece of the main room. From there they were transferred to Bradshaw Hall when Timberbottom Farm was demolished in 1939, and thence to Turton Towers in 1949. They used to be kept – and perhaps still are – upon a large family Bible, a method said to have been adopted by the farm tenants on the advice of Colonel Hardcastle, a late nineteenth-century owner of Bradshaw Hall, to prevent ghostly disturbances.

The early history of these relics is unknown, the various stories about them showing considerable disagreement. Harland and Wilkinson offer no theory as to origin, but describe their supposed behaviour, on the basis of tales told them in the 1860s:

They are said to have been buried many times in the graveyard at Bradshaw Chapel, but they have always had to be exhumed and brought back to the farmhouse. They have even been thrown into the adjacent river, but to no purpose for they had to be fished up and restored to their old quarters before the ghosts of their owners could once more rest in peace.

According to one account gathered by Jessica Lofthouse in 1976, the river was where they originally came from; they were said to have been found in the water in 1751, and to be the remains of two robbers beheaded by servants when they got into the farm in 1680. A different explanation given to her was that a daughter of the upper-class Bradshaw family fell in love with a farm labourer at Timberbottom; her brother, outraged by this disgrace, killed the man, and the girl died of grief soon afterwards; violent ghostly disturbances persisted until the skulls of both lovers were recovered from their graves and reunited, never to be separated again. Or again it may be said, as John Harris was told in the 1960s, that they are those of a farmer and his wife; he killed her, then committed suicide.

Despite the inconsistency of the explanatory narratives and the lack of early evidence, the fame of the skulls is still considerable.



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