The Cursed Skull of Tunstead Farm.
Overlooking the road that runs between Whalley Bridge and Chapel-en le Frith in the county of Derbyshire can be found the grim looking house that is known as Tunstead farm. If the stories surrounding this house and the strange skull which until recently refused to be moved from its position on the kitchen window sill are to be believed, it maybe one of the more stranger tales to originate from this area.
Tunstead Farm is known locally as skull farm due to the happenings that have occurred there, the farm is part of a hamlet which dates back to the thirteenth century. Back in 1790 an Author by the name of Hutchinson visited the farm and was told by the tenant at the time, a Mr Adam Fox, that the skull had been there for at least two centuries which means that it was there since at least 1590, he also went on to say that he could produce at least 50 local witnessess who have seen an apparition at the farm.
There are many stories regarding the origin of the skull, one story tells of two sisters who once loved the same man, this led to one of the sisters murdering the other one, it is said that as she was dying she proclaimed that her bones would never rest in any grave. According to the book by S.O. Addy which was published in 1895 under the title of Household Tales and other Traditional Remains, it goes on to say “that her bones are kept in a cheese vat in the farmhouse which stands in a staircase window. If the bones are removed from the vat trouble comes upon the house, strange noises are heard at night, the cattle die or are seized with illness”.
However this explanation as to the identity of the skull seems to be at odds with the name that is attached to it along with the apparition, as it goes by the name of “Dickey O Tunstead”. According to the testimony of many of the locals the house is peaceful and quiet as long as the skull remains in the house, however if it is moved noises are heard throughout the house along with strange moanings which seem to emanate from the keyholes in the doors, according to J. Castle Hall the weird skull rests in the quiet corner of a window, and in the room a peculiar silence reigns.
Another version of the origin of the skull is that it once sat on the shoulders of a soldier named Ned Dickson who was murdered by his cousins on Tunstead farm after having returned from the war to claim his inheritance. After his murder all manner of disturbances and misfortune befell the cousins, strange noises, crop failures and ghostly visitations persisted until on the advice of a Witch, Ned’s skull was dug up and kept in the house which resulted in peace reigning once more.
The farmland which belonged to Tunstead farm became known as “Dickeys Land” and the skull became the farms Guardian and protected it with a vengeance, no local person would be stupid enough to trespass on its land. Unfortunately the Northwestern Railway Company were not aware of the skulls power when they decided to build a railway bridge upon land owned by Tunstead farm which would have linked Buxton with Whaley Bridge. The curse of Dicky’s skull soon began to have an effect on the building work as foundations which had been built collapsed on more than one occasion, one section of the bridge collapsed overnight burying all the workmen’s tools. In the end the company decided to put an end to the spiralling costs of going head to head with the curse and decided to build higher up the line at Dane Hey. The story caused so much publicity at the time that a Lancashire poet put pen to paper and wrote this poem in 1870 called “Address to Dicky”:
Neaw, Dickie, be quiet wi’ thee,lad,
An ‘let navvies an’ railways a ‘be;
Mon tha shouldn’t do soa, its to bad,
What harm are they doin’ to thee?
Deed folk shouldn’t meddle at o’
But leov o’ these matters to th’wick;
They’ll see they’re done gradely, aw know-
Dos’t’ yer what aw say to thee, Dick?
It is said that on one occasion the skull was thrown into Coombes resevoir which is close to the road which runs between Chapel-en-le Frith and Whaley Bridge, however this act caused all the fish in the resevoir to die so I assume the skull was brought back to the farm yet again. The skull has been buried twice at the church in Chapel-en-le frith and had to be dug up both times and returned to the farm as a great storm raged also cattle died and a strange diseases also spread among the livestock not to mention all the strange noises which could be heard throughout the farmhouse.
Legend has it that the skull was uncovered when renovations were carried out to the house in the past before the reformation took place, it was found inside the wall directly below the window ledge which it now favours, when it was moved from this place furniture was seen to move in the house as well as ornaments, at these times the skull is said to have wept and given off moaning noises, not only is it known as “Dickey’s Skull” but also known as the “WeepingSkull”.
On one occasion the skull was stolen from Tunstead Farm and taken to Disley in Manchester, however the theives became so unnerved by the happenings that befell them that it wasn’t long before the skull was returned to its rightful owners and its favourite place on the window sill in the kitchen.
A suggestion as to the origin of the skull has been put forward in that it may have been the skull of a Chieftain which was removed from Cadster stone circle which can be found on land above Tunstead farm, as many skulls and headless skeletons have been found in barrows in this area. Where ever the skull came from one thing is certain in that its fame will linger on for many generations to come!
As a matter of coincidence another skull can be found about 15 miles away from Tunstead farm, this skull has been overshadowed by “Dickeys” fame and resides at Flagg Hall, about 5 miles from the town of Buxton in the small village of Flagg. This skull sits on a cheese board located on a window sill beneath the staircase, as with “Dickey” the origin of this skull is again unknown, however it does share a reluctance to leave the property like the Tunstead farm skull.
The Flagg Hall skull is known to date back to at least the eighteenth century when the Hall was owned by a William Burdekin and according to one of his distant relatives who was female, she stated that:….they found an old skull in the house and were going to re-bury it in Chelmorton churchyard. They all piled into the trap and set off, or rather they didn’t, as the horse refused to move, no matter how it was coaxed or shouted at. So they all got down and went back into the house. Then the horse walked calmly back to the stable. The skull was taken back up to the attic and peace reigned for a time. Then a new servant arrived and was given the attic bedroom; she took against the skull and flung it out the window. It landed on top of a cart load of manure just going to the field. The horse stopped in its tracks, then kicked and reared and made such a fuss, that the skull fell off onto the road. It was left outside for a time, but such luck and misfortune befell the farm that it was eventually restored to its original position where it still resides to this day.