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Down in the valley by Mellor Brook, close to the current site of Sykes Holt (Thwaites' Brewery), there once stood a dilapidated old farmstead. Known as Sykes Lumb Farm, this dwelling took its name from the ancient and thrifty Sykes family, who once farmed there. The last of the line lived during the Wars of the Roses and, perhaps prompted by the uncertainty which was at the time treading the boards at the national stage, and with no progeny to whom a bequest could be made, Old Sykes took the opportunity to secrete his fortune in a hole on his lands in a number of earthenware jars. He died about the time when Henry VII brought the conflicts to a close, followed shortly thereafter by his wife.
Relatives and strangers, having heard rumours of great wealth being hoarded, soon began searching the Farm and its grounds for a quick windfall. However, over time, the Sykes' and their money were forgotten and the farm passed into other hands.
However, Widow Sykes, it seems, would not rest. Every so often, at twilight, people living in or passing through the area would report having encountered "an old wrinkled woman, dressed in ancient garb, passing along the gloomy road which leads across the Lumb," never raising her head and making her way slowly with the aid of a crook. At other times, this spectre was seen in the house, the old barn or the orchard. In the latter place, there stood a certain apple tree which seemed of especial interest to the spirit.
These apparitions persisted for centuries, with one witness stating that "she was not there when I went to pluck an apple, but no sooner did I raise my hand towards the fruit, than she made her appearance just before me."
Eventually, one tenant of the farm, fortified by drink, ventured to question the ghost as to why she returned from beyond the veil so. No audible answer was given, but the phantom moved slowly towards the stump of the apple tree, long since fallen or removed, and pointed towards an area of ground nearby. Shovels were brought and the subsequent excavation uncovered the treasure so meticulously placed there all those years before. The old woman's shade was seen to be standing by the trench, gazing down with interest. When the final jar was lifted out, "an unearthly smile passed over her withered features; her bodily form became less and less distinct, until at last it disappeared altogether."
Sykes Lumb Farm is also famous for its other supernatural inhabitant: the Farm was reputedly home to one of the most active of Lancashire's boggart population. Boggarts are creatures of nature, associated with particular locations, dwellings, rocks and rivers, who generally manifest in a disembodied form similar to poltergeists. This particular specimen is something of the archetypal house spirit. T.T. Wilkinson describes its activities as follows: -
All in all, better not to offend this particular creature. One can well sympathise with Old Sykes and his decision to bury his pots, money or no money.