Marsden Park, Nelson, Lancashire

Here is an investigation from my archives.  It’s a lovely place that I visited a couple of times when searching for the ghost of the mysterious White Lady.

Marsden Park is situated in the Lancashire town of Nelson and is found at the top of Walton Lane quite close to the municipal golf course. It is in this park where there have been a number of reports of a ghostly figure, which is said to haunt the location.

Marsden Park was part of the old Marsden Hall that was built by Richard and Henry Walton between 1555 and 1563. The “new” Marsden Hall extension to the Tudor Hall took place in 1740. R.T. Walton developed key 19th Century aspects which included: ornate stonework, pseudo-Roman baths, a Ladies garden, upper and lower pools (the latter having been filled in during the post war years), a conservatory, 20 sided sundial, and family chapel.

In 1857 the hall and grounds were leased to a Dr Pinder who obtained permission to use the hall and grounds as a mental asylum. Eventually, the Hall and grounds were turned into a public park in 1912.

In the late 1980s the Nelson Leader newspaper ran a report of a sighting made by a group of teenagers who were walking in the park one night. They were approaching an area of the park known as “The Dungeons”. The Dungeons is nothing sinister in all reality, it is the name given to a series of archways which make up what was once the pseudo-Roman Baths which were built between 1801 and 1845 during the above mentioned developments. It was about 9:30pm when the group was walking in the dark. As they got closer to the dungeons one of the group froze. The group looked towards the Dungeons and saw, in the last alcove nearest the pond, a white glowing figure. None of the group could pick out any features, and certainly didn’t stay for a closer look!

There have also been some strange occurrences when certain parts of Marsden Park have been photographed. Late one night in August 1996 I visited Marsden Park with an old 35mm camera and photographed a number of locations; The Dungeons, an icosahedral sundial, a building within the grounds of the park, and the changing room of the open air swimming pool. Of these photographs, only one picture developed: the swimming pool changing rooms. This photograph was taken at the furthest distance from the Dungeons. In an attempt to negate possible photographic faults I returned to Marsden Park a week later. This time I used an “all conditions”  camera film and fresh batteries for the flash unit to try to compensate for a possible lack of light in the previous pictures. I took three photographs including the sundial and the Dungeons and again the photographs taken in the park did not develop. Sadly the negatives for these photographs have long since been lost.

Fig 1.Later that year I travelled back to Marsden Park and photographed the same locations using black and white film. These pictures were developed but, sadly, most of the pictures have been lost.  However, one photo remains that shows the last alcove in the Dungeons nearest to the pond. It is in this alcove where a strange image can be seen. It may be a fault in the developing process, I don’t know for certain, so we shall leave this picture open to interpretation. It was seven years before I returned to Marsden Park…

INVESTIGATION At 11:25pm on Friday 16th January 2004 I returned to Marsden Park to renew my investigation.  My first point of reference was the curious, 20 sided sundial before moving through the park…

 Icosahedral Sundial

Fig 2.

This twenty-sided sundial was designed by Thornber and Kippax, and was probably constructed on June 15th 1841 according to an inscription on one of the faces. It was originally placed to the South East of the Roman Baths but moved to its present location in the 1930s. There are only two other sundials like this in the country. They are at the Jesuit College, Stoneyhurst, and Walton Park in Wakefield.

The Lady’s Garden

The Lady’s Garden is a sunken area surrounded by a curved wall. In the wall are two entrances that are now blocked up. Fig 3.Fig 4.

According to rumour, behind the north entrance is a tunnel to the now demolished hall, and behind the south entrance is a tunnel to the Roman Baths. An inspection by the local council of the cellar under the conservatory does not reveal any existing or sealed tunnel. However, the existing cellar does not reflect the plans of the original hall and the tunnel may have been accessed via steps from the main house down to a separate cellar. It is alleged that R.T. Walton’s sisters were invalids and would have used the tunnel to avoid walking through the gardens. However the tunnel would have to drop at a gradient of 1:9 which would be quite steep for an invalid. Either the existing cellar would have to be quite deep or the tunnel would have to be long and meandering. The south tunnel, leading to the Roman Baths is dubious, as it would have required an enormous engineering feat to stand up to the pressure of the pond above it. However, the tunnel entrances have never been opened, so this remains a mystery. The Lady’s Garden was the second location visited by myself. Initially, a number of light anomalies appeared on the digital camera but they were soon explained as being the result of moisture on the ground and in the air.

The Wishing Gate

Fig 5.

The name for this stone gateway derives from the practice of making a wish as one passes through the gate. A leaf (usually a laurel) is rolled and placed in one of the circular recesses. A wish is made as the person passes under the arch. This practice is still continued today.

On the 35mm black and white picture taken by myself there can be seen two anomalies. The first is a mist in the left hand half of the picture. The second is a white streak within the arch itself. The mist could be exhaled breath, the streak has not yet been identified.

The Roman Baths

The Roman Baths, also known as The Dungeons, was the highlight of the park in its heyday. It featured a boathouse, which is where people would board small rowing boats that they took out onto the pond in front of the baths. It is believed that a boiler, the chimney of which broke the surface, heated the Roman Baths some 200 metres away. Today the boathouse has been filled in, along with part of the pond, and the baths themselves are now bricked up. It is at this location where the group of youths from the late 1980s saw the mysterious white figure.

Fig 6.

Whilst at this location I squeezed through a fenced walkway that lead to a room that is now bricked up.  This was probably the old boiler room.

Underneath the arches a number of photographs were taken. Some of these photographs showed strange mists, but tests revealed that these mists were likely to have been produced by exhaled breath. While stood under these arches I heard a noise to the right of me and quickly took a picture. Nothing could be seen at the time, but upon viewing the image on the digital camera, a mist was apparent that could not be easily explained.



With the exception of a few light anomalies, there was little unexplained activity experienced on this visit to Marsden Park. Sadly, the White Lady did not put in an appearance.

Perhaps I should return some day?

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