THIS seemingly idyllic scene masks one of East Lancashire’s most gruesome legends.

The two photographs show Waddow Hall near Clitheroe, now best known for its long association with the Girl Guiding Association.

But in the grounds of the hall, once home to the prominent Starkie family, lies an ancient well which has been the subject of myth and legend for centuries.

The fenced off area that you can see in both photographs is the site of St Margaret’s Well which is believed to be the site of a pre-Christian spring.

But the spring is better known locally as Peg O’Nell’s Well, taking its name from the servant of the Starkie’s who worked at Waddow Hall in the 1800s.

There are several stories surrounding Peg who, by all accounts, was a spirited young woman and did not take kindly to her mistress’s domineering ways and became involved in several heated argument with her - something virtually unheard of at the time.

After one such ‘dispute’ she was sent to fetch water from the nearby river with her mistress allegedly saying she hoped that she fell and broke her neck. Some time later, on an icy night, this appears to be exactly what happened with poor Peg falling into the Ribble.

From then on the Starkies hit hard times with many believing it was Peg’s curse on the family. There were also reports of her ghost frequenting the corridors and passageways of the hall.

As part of the legend, it is said a statue had been erected near to the well in memory of Peg - although historians actually believe that it was a statue to St Margaret of Antioch, brought from nearby Whalley or Sawley Abbey.

However, let’s not that get in the way of a good story!

Back to the curse, Mistress Starkie decided to take matters into her own hands and attacked Peg’s statue, chopping off the head and in so doing lifting the curse on the family although the halls and grounds are still said to be haunted to this day.

As for the headless statue, the most logical explanation is that it never had a head attached and was used to mark a spot of pilgrimage. St Margaret was beheaded by the Romans for her Christian beliefs.

There is evidence too of a separate head being kept at the hall. It was lost for a time and then rediscovered and set into a wall at nearby Brungerley Farm.