15 June 2008

Kit and her crew

When I was banging on about tunnels the other day, I made a mental note to look further into the story of Kit Crewbucket. I’m indebted to an excellent little tome ‘Canal Tunnels of England and Wales’ for this extra bit of ghostly info.

It would appear that the term ‘Kit Crewbucket’ has now become accepted slang for a canal ghost, although her original haunts were north of Harecastle. In Victorian times, Kidsgrove was known to canal folk as ‘Kitcrew’, while a ‘buggut’ was a dialect term for a ghost. According to one story, two local men murdered a woman and threw her corpse in to the T&M, and she now manifests either as a headless body (why are bodies always headless?) or, more curiously, as a white horse.

A headless woman (they’re very careless losing them, aren’t they?) is also said to haunt Saddington tunnel and if you see her, then you’re in trouble because her appearance portends doom and disaster. Further along, a friendly male ghost, and this one would seem to have managed to hold onto his head, wanders the towpath north of Crick tunnel, his strolling spectre recreating his earthly role as a lengthsman.

Near to Pontcysyllte, a fine and beautiful lady in crinolines has appeared on the towpath, and were that to happen when I was on the aqueduct, I might just have to abseil down the offside. But the most noble Kit Crewbucket of all has often been seen riding across his lands near Worsley tunnels. On certain nights, it is said that a coach and horses carry a lordly passenger across the moors. Those brave enough to have taken a look at the face swear that it was none other than the Duke of Bridgewater himself.

I’m so glad I found this out after I went through Worsley because things like this give me the willies. I still watch the Daleks through my fingers...

P.S. Early in the 20th century, a murder victim was dropped down one of the ventilation shafts of the abandoned Berwick tunnel on the derelict Shrewsbury canal. If anyone's planning a 'disposal' anytime soon, could you please take similar precautions and not sling it down Blisworth as the shaft monsoons are bad enough without a body complicating matters. Nor Harecastle, because no-one will come and get it out....

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