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Does an ancient city inhabited by diminutive dwarfs exist under the Roman ruins on Mellor Moor?

Lancashire's Atlantis.
- Jonathan Codd, Paranormal Lancashire (2011).

The "bare hill" of Mellor Moor stands in the south west of the Ribble Valley, some miles north west of the climbing, sprawling urban fingers of the town of Blackburn in East Lancashire, remaining - at the present date - just out of reach of its clutches. During the Roman occupation, the site was home to a small Roman station, presumably associated with the various roads heading south from the important military site of Bremetennacum Veteranorum at modern-day Ribchester. The site of this encampment is today betrayed by the presence of various earthworks around the summit of the Moor.

The Romans, however, may not have been the only people - if such you could call them - who made use of the summit: Thomas T. Wilkinson, the Victorian antiquary, notes a local tradition: -

The popular opinion of the neighbourhood is that an underground city exists at this place - that an earthquake swallowed up the encampment - and that on certain evenings in the year the hill folks may be heard ringing their bells and indulging in various festivities.
- T.T. Wilkinson, On the Popular Customs and Superstitions of Lancashire (1860), p.94.

Certainly an interesting speculation - and one which has its analogues especially in Ireland (from whence came many people who settled in the industrial areas near Mellor during the 19th century), where the ancient raths & burial grounds are often held to be the dwelling places and sporting grounds of the otherworldly sidhe.


Wilkinson continues by discussing local fairy lore, which includes the excavation of ancient tobacco pipes held to have belonged to a supernatural race in fields under the plough, noting that these entities are wont to "gambol on the grassy meads at 'dewy eve,'" and are occasionally visible to humans, particularly those who have made the requisite preparations, involving "the use of ointments, four-leaved clover" and the like.

However, the incident in question involved a "near relative" of Wilkinson's who claimed that he "once saw a real dwarf, or fairy, without the use of any incantation." The story goes as follows: -

He had been amusing himself one summer evening on the top of Mellor Moor, near Blackburn, close to the remains of the Roman encampment, when his attention was arrested by the appearance of a dwarf-like man, attired in full hunting costume, with top-boots and spurs, a green jacket, red hairy cap, and a thick hunting whip in his hand. He ran briskly along the moor for a considerable distance, when leaping over a low stone wall, he darted down a steep declivity, and was soon lost to sight.


Additionally, along Mellor Brook to the southwest stands Sykes Holt, presumably the Lumb Farm or Sykes Lumb Farm (and the current site of Thwaites' Brewery), which appears in local lore as the site of a haunting dating back as far as the Wars of the Roses, as well as a capricious boggart associated with the farm. Sykes Holt is, in turn, close to Samlesbury Hall, home to the famous "White Lady," believed to be a tragic member of the staunchly Catholic Southworth family who held Samlesbury in Early Modern times.

Sir Graham