Memory Lane: Ghostly story of farmhouse

HIGHER FALL FARM: Circa1890, and (below) now. Bottom: Norah Cowperthwaite.

HIGHER FALL FARM: Circa1890, and (below) now. Bottom: Norah Cowperthwaite.

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THEN AND NOW: Higher Fall Farm, Clifton Road, Marton.

HENS peck at their food on the ground while farmer’s daughter Norah Cowperthwaite (below) looks at the camera, a goose held tight in her hands.

HIGHER FALL FARM: Now

HIGHER FALL FARM: Now

The candid photograph is one of many images and views that make up a treasured pictorial record of Higher Fall Farm, a snapshot scrapbook that was left to reader Margaret Hayhurst, of Borrowdale Road, Marton, by her close friend Pat Cowperthwaite.

According to local historian Harold Monks, in his two books Marton: a Domesday Village and Marton Moss and Neighbourhood, the farm was built around 1850 with a thatched roof and had a stable, barn and cowsheds.

In about 1880, a building of brick with a slate roof was added, and the whole building was slate roofed in 1890. The outbuildings were demolished in the 1950s.

For many years, it was the home of James Henry Whiteside and family, later passing into the hands of James Cowperthwaite (pronounced Copper by the older generation and Cooper latterly).

Norah Cowperthwaite of Higher Fall Farm, Clifton Road, Marton.

Norah Cowperthwaite of Higher Fall Farm, Clifton Road, Marton.

James was a horse-breaker and ran a successful dairy business, and was succeeded by his daughters Agnes and Norah.

There was also a son who became a police officer.

Margaret says: “The sisters were well known in the district, driving round in a pony and trap, delivering milk.

They were eccentric, slow-talking countrywomen and great hoarders. Agnes died in 1970 and Norah in 1975, and their nephew, also James, inherited.

“By this time, the house was dilapidated with a large hole in the kitchen roof and repairs took more than 12 months before James, who was known to everyone as Jim, could move in with his wife Pat.”

At that time, it was re-christened Levens House.

Margaret adds: “Jim worked for ICI, inventing new paints, and then became a physics teacher.

“Pat had been a deputy head infants teacher. They had no children.”

After Jim died, Pat lived alone until her death in 2004, and it was eventually sold but suffered extensive vandalism in the meantime, and the company which bought it could not move in until October, 2006.

That company, called RNS Publications, supplies hospital and bereavement literature throughout the NHS.

Today, the old farmhouse is surrounded by industrial units on and behind Clifton Road, but as Margaret points out: “A house this old inevitably has a ghost or two. Pat told me of a tradesman and his young assistant working upstairs when the lad suddenly shrieked, ran down and outside.

“He would not give the reason for his behaviour but said he would never set foot in the house again.

“On another occasion, a pair of old spectacles appeared in a drawer which had been cleared the day before.

“Jim and Pat also inherited the sisters’ cat, and it lived there during the renovations, and for some time afterwards. After the pet died, Pat entered her bedroom one day to find an indentation in the middle of her bed in the shape of a curled-up cat.

“The firm’s partners tell me the house has many defects after all this time, and they reckon it will have to be demolished within 10 years so a modern, purpose-built structure may take its place.

“It is sad, but inevitable that another little bit of Blackpool history will then be lost.”