A few stories to while away a winter's night.........
The Tantum Ghost
The most famous ghost
story of the area, dating from 1795, is told by
William Howitt to the author R.D. Owen in
his book, "Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World." 
"One fine afternoon, my mother [Phoebe Howitt], shortly after a
confinement, but perfectly convalescent, was lying in bed enjoying from
her window the sense of summer beauty and repose, a bright sky above and
the quiet village before her. In this state she was gladdened by hearing
the footsteps which she took to be those of her brother Frank [Francis
Tantum], as he was familiarly called, approaching the door. The visitor
knocked and entered. The foot of the bed was towards the door, and the
curtains at the foot, notwithstanding the season, were drawn to prevent
the draught. Her brother parted and looked in upon her. His gaze was
earnest and destitute of its usual cheerfulness and he spoke not a word.
'My dear Frank' said my mother, 'How glad I am to see you! Come round to
the bedside; I wish to have some talk with you.' He closed the curtains,
as complying, but instead of doing so my mother to her astonishment heard
him leave the room, close the door behind him, and begin to descend the
stairs. Greatly amazed, she hastily rang, and when her maid appeared she
bade her call her brother back. The girl replied that she had not seen him
enter the house. But my mother insisted, saying 'He was here but this
instant. Run! Quick! Call him back! I must see him!'
"The girl hurried away, but after a time returned, saying that she could
learn nothing of him anywhere; nor had anyone in or about the house seen
him either enter or depart. Now my father's house stood at the bottom of
the village and close to the high road, which was quite straight; so that
anyone passing along it must have been seen for a much longer period than
had elapsed. The girl said she had looked up and down the road, then
searched the garden - a large old-fashioned one, with shady walks. But
neither in the garden, nor on the road was he to be seen. She had inquired
at the nearest cottages in the village, but no one had noticed him pass.
"My mother, though a very pious woman, was far from
superstitious; yet the strangeness of this circumstance stuck her
forcibly. While she lay pondering upon it, there was heard a sudden
rushing and exited talking in the village street. My mother listened: it
increased though up to that time the village had been profoundly still;
and she became convinced that something very unusual had occurred. Again
she rang the bell, to inquire the cause of the disturbance. This time
it was the monthly nurse who answered it. She sought to tranquillize my
mother, as a nurse usually does a patient: 'Oh, it is nothing particular,
ma'am,' she said, 'Some trifling affair!', which she pretended to relate,
passing lightly over the particulars. But her ill-suppressed agitation did
not escape my mother's eye. 'Tell me the truth,' she said, 'at once! I am
certain something very sad has happened.' The woman still equivocated
fearing the effect upon my mother in her then situation. And at first the
family joined in the attempt at concealment. Finally however, my mother's
entreaties drew from them the terrible truth that her brother had been
stabbed at the top of the village and killed on the spot.
"The melancholy event had thus occurred. My uncle, Francis
Tantum, had been dining at Shipley Hall, with Mr Edward Miller Mundy,
member of Parliament for the county. Shipley Hall lay off to the left of
the village as you looked up the main street from my father's house, and
about a mile distant from it; while Heanor Fall, my uncle's residence, was
situated to the right; the road to the one country seat to the other
crossing, nearly at right angles, the upper portion of the village street
at a point where stood one of the two village inns, the 'Admiral Rodney' [almost
certainly the old Crown Inn], respectably kept by the widow H--ks [Hanks].
I remember her well - a tall, fine looking woman, who must have been
handsome in her youth, and who retained, even past middle age, an air
superior to her condition. She had only one child, a son, then scarcely
twenty. He was a good looking, brisk young fellow, and bore a very fair
character. He must, however, as the event shewed, have been of a very
"Francis Tantum, riding home from Shipley Hall after the
early country dinner of that day, somewhat elate it may be with wine,
stopped at the widow's inn and bade her son bring him a glass of ale. As
the latter hurried to obey, my uncle, giving the youth a smart switch
across the back with his riding-whip, cried out in his lively, joking,
way, 'Now be quick, Dick; be quick!'
"The young man, instead of receiving the playful stroke as
a jest, took it as an insult. He rushed into the house, snatched up a
carving knife, and darting back into the street, stabbed my uncle to the
heart as he sat on his horse, so that he fell dead on the instant, in the
"The sensation throughout the quiet village may be
imagined. The inhabitants who idolized the murdered man, were prevented
from taking summary vengeance on the homicide only by the constables
carrying him off to the office of the nearest magistrate. Young H--ks was
tried at the next Derby Assizes; but (justly, no doubt, taking into view
the sudden irritation caused by the blow) he was convicted of manslaughter
only, and, after a few months imprisonment, returned to the village,
where, notwithstanding the strong popular feeling against him, he
continued to keep the inn, even after his mother's death. He is still
present to my recollection, a quiet, retiring man, never guilty of any
other irregularity of conduct, and seeming to bear about with him the
constant memory of his rash deed - a silent blight upon his life.
"So great was the respect entertained for my uncle, and
such the deep impression of his tragic end, that so long as that
generation lived the church bells of the village were regularly tolled on
the anniversary of his death.
"On comparing the circumstances and the exact time at which
each occurred, the fact was substantiated that the apparition presented
itself to my mother almost instantly after her brother had received the
The pond in Foxhole Plantation, Autumn 2004
The Foxhole Children
A sunny spring day in 1956. A 17 year old
Heanor miner, keen on motorcycling, went off for a ride to
Codnor Castle, and then rode down across the
fields below the castle.
Around half a mile north-east of the castle, down the hill towards the
Erewash, lies Foxhole Plantation. Between the castle and the wood is now
an opencast site which is finally in the process of being restored after
the extraction of minerals. On the edge of the wood is a small pond -
nothing special, it has no known name, but it has been there for as long
as maps can show - a slightly eerie place, even today, and even in the
The young man stopped his bike, deciding to have a cigarette. As he leant
against a tree, he saw two young children come out from by the pond - they
stared at him, then walked off along a path away from him. Not a spot of
mud on their shoes or clothes, and yet they had come from a part of the
pond which was water-logged and deep with mud.
were two girls. The eldest, who walked in front, was 7 or 8 years old, and
had blonde hair. The younger one, aged about 6, had brown hair. They were
dressed in what he described as 1940's clothing. He followed, and called
after them to see if they were alright, but there was no reply. Walking in
complete silence, to the edge of the wood, they then climbed over a stile
out of the wood, heading across the fields towards Kennels Farm. By now,
the youth was himself caked in mud, but still the children were spotless.
At this point, as he moved to follow them further, the youngest turned and
said, "You can't come!". The children continued across the field and then,
without warning, vanished.
Needless to say,
the spectator in this story didn't hang around very long to see what else
happened! That said, he does believe that he has seen these same children
again, many years later and in a different part of the country, in equally
strange circumstances. But that's another story.....!
Another Foxhole Spirit
Prompted by this website, we have been contacted by a
working medium, Yvette Sinclair-France, who tells of another
encounter in Foxhole Plantation.
"The first Spirit I saw in Foxholes Plantation wood was a man hanging from
one of the very old beech trees in the middle of the wood alongside the
path that runs through the middle. He was dressed in clothes that would
have put him around the end of the nineteenth century. Long dark hair, a
finger tip length brown jacket, and high, brown leather boots. He
terrified my dogs, who both refused to walk anywhere near the tree, and
acted like a horse would when it shies around an object that startles it -
the Jack Russell eventually bolted and ran all the way home.
tried to communicate with the man and was told he had hanged himself
because his wife had left him for another man. He called her a Jezabel,
and I learned that his name was John. I
took 2 other friends who are mediums to the same wood. Didn't tell them
why, but just asked them to walk through it with me and stop where they
felt or saw anything. With no prompting they both walked to the same tree,
and described the same man who hanged himself, and gave the same reason
for his suicide. I gather he did this around Yuletide, as many people
have told me since that he is only seen there at that time of year - the
anniversary of his death.
I did some
research by speaking to local people - a 92 year old woman recalled being
told by her Aunt that a man had hanged himself in the wood when she was a
You may be sceptical, you may believe.
Whatever, it is an interesting story.
(from the Society newsletter, 1991)
For many years, Sukey's Hollow was a dark, lonely footpath lit only by one
gas lamp in the middle near the White Cottage. The footpath was the
nearest route between Heanor, Sye Lane and Marlpool, until the creation of
Ella Bank Road, Claramount Road and Westfield Avenue around the end of the
nineteenth century. Even in the 1930's, women, and even men, were very
fearful of walking past the ruins after dark. Sukey's Hollow was said to
have been the site for two murders in the eighteenth century - a servant
girl called Sukey and a woman named Nan Tantum. The white house was a
lodge belonging to the Heanor Hall estate, and it could have been that
Sukey, who gave her name to the footpath, was a servant there. Sukey's
ghost is said to haunt Sukey's Hollow.
The Nan Tantum connection might have been through the house across the
field on Hands Road at the top of the hill. The house stands next to The
Starthe field and had its name on a stone reading "Tantum Cottage" but
this has been obscured by rendering in recent years.
The dark and gloomy Victorian vicarage between Hands Road and the white
house would do nothing to reassure people taking a short cut through
Sukey's Hollow on a wild, wintry evening.
|Hardy Barn Murders
Hardy Barn is the name given to the steep hill down from
Marlpool towards Shipley on the Heanor to Ilkeston road. Fred Fletcher, in
his memoirs "The Cry from the Soil" tells how he started dating a
girl from Ilkeston, so had to travel along this stretch of road on foot,
just after the First World War.
He briefly tells
of "the unsavoury happenings down Hardy Barn, a dark stretch of road
leading to Ilkeston, where it was said, a murder was committed twice at
the same spot. The first was the clubbing to death of the Royal Mail van
driver - his horse was never found. The second was the strangling of a
gamekeeper. My mother told me the murders happened and also she knew the
ghosts of the victims. She suspected that I must be a screw loose - I
would be daft to think of travelling on foot to Ilkeston in the dark.
However, no ghost would stop me from meeting Lily, although I ran very
fast on passing through Hardy Barn during the dark nights. To my relief,
in November 1922, the Midland Bus Service opened between Heanor and
references to these murders or ghosts would be appreciated.
Laying a "ghost" at
Taken from the
Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser, 25 July 1930
During road works on Denby Lane, Loscoe, described as having "the
unenviable distinction of being one of the worst stretches of road in the
country," a local character, Tom Allen, was given the job of night
watchman. In the early hours of a dark misty morning, Tom was sitting half
inside and half outside his watchman's box, when he spotted something
moving slowly up the lane, by the side of the palings running alongside
the recreation ground.
Tom immediately thought it was a ghost, or, if not a ghost, then it had to
be someone covered with a sheet trying to play a trick on him. The object
was coming closer, and Tom did not want to be trapped inside his box, so,
taking his stout walking stick for defence, he moved to the side of the
road, away from the light of the fire, and waited for the arrival of the
spectre. The suspense was terrible, and many thoughts passed through Tom's
mind - he was determined that he would get in the first blow.
So, advancing with raised stick, he was about to hit out when the ghost
shouted, "Hey up! Hold on!"
Whereupon our hero replied, "It's a good job you spoke, or you'd a got
one." He immediately recognised the supposed ghost as one of the employees
of the Midland General Omnibus Company, in white coat and white hat, who
was returning home after working a late shift. Before leaving, he confided
to Tom that other people had been frightened by his ghostly appearance in
Earlier than the story, this shows a view up Denby Lane at
Loscoe, from the main road, at the turn of the last century.
Do you know any other supernatural stories from the Heanor
area? If so, please use the Contact Us page to let
(Photograph of Loscoe
Denby Lane courtesy of Ian Cutler of Aldercar.)
Last modified on
29 September 2013 12:49