By Steve Chapples (1946-2014)
Beautiful, young Hannah Corbridge lived with her father at Knarrs End House, Laneshawbridge and was heavily pregnant when she was murdered by 19 year-old boyfriend Christopher Hartley. She was seen alive walking out with him on Sunday morning 19th July 1789.
That morning, Hartley asked his mother to bake two pieces of parkin. One was for himself and the other for his girlfriend laced with poison. When the poison didn’t have the desired effect, he slit her throat and hid her body in an oak chest at his Barnside Hall home.
Upon discovering the gruesome remains of the corpse the constables went to find Hartley, but found nothing untoward at his home. They found his mother, who was nicknamed ‘Wolf Woman’ because of her repulsive, black facial hair, sitting on the oak chest suckling an infant and were so taken aback by the sight that they failed to examine the chest.
After their departure, Christopher attempted to bury the remains of the body however was seen by a young girl who reported. He immediately fled North. Hannah was finally interred at St Mary’s Church at Newchurch in Pendle on 29th July.
On Sunday morning 2nd August, Hartley was apprehended in Flookborough, Cumberland and brought back to Colne for the coroner’s inquest. He was then committed to appear at the court at Lancaster Castle, where he was convicted of Hannah’s murder and publicly hanged at Tyburn, York, on 28th August.
Eventually Barnside Hall was demolished and some of the stones from the property were used to repair Laneshaw Bridge. Some people reported that the bridge was prone to ooze blood in wet weather, although this was probably just a chemical reaction. There were supposedly several sightings of Hannah’s ghost wandering around Barnside Hall and nearby Earl Hall in the midnight hour.
There still remains many unanswered questions in this tale. Whose infant was the old crone suckling? Why did Hartley want the girl dead? Maybe Hannah had been unfaithful to him and discovering the child was not his Hartley decided to get rid of it and the mother in a fit of anger and jealousy?