Dr Derek J Ripley investigates the hidden mysteries of Lancashire
PUBLISHED: 18:08 03 October 2013 | UPDATED: 18:04 19 January 2016
You can’t switch on the TV these days without seeing Brian Cox staring at the stars or the fellow from The Apprentice You’re Fired trying to persuade us that science is fun.
Scientists think they have the answer to everything. But some things still elude them: How the universe started, why we dream and, perhaps the greatest mystery of all, how on earth Sandi Thom got to number 15 in 2006 with “I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair).”
I referred briefly in a previous article to the fact that here are more unexplained mysteries in Lancashire than in any other part of the north west, apart from Cheshire and parts of the Wirral. For example, there are an unusually large number of ghost sightings. According to census data, in 1881 there were over 2,000 ghosts resident here.
The best explanation of why there are so many unexplained mysteries in our fair county came from Graham Spatchcock in his book, Forbidden Lancashire and Parts of Cheshire and the Wirral (currently out of print). He postulated that Lancashire was once part of the continent of America and that movements of the earth’s tectonic plates separated the continents more than 400 years ago. He was convinced that much of Lancashire lies on an old Red Indian burial ground.
One of his more controversial theories was that the now sadly defunct theme park near Charnock Richard was built on the site of the legendary court of Camelot and he cited as evidence its proximity to the M6, which would have enabled King Arthur to mobilise his knights at short notice, as well as the existence of the Chorley Round Table just a few miles down the road
Spatchcock compiled a list of what he called the Seven Wonders of Lancashire, one of which was the Taj Mahal restaurant in Leyland. Built in 1972 in honour of the wife of a local curry magnate, it was one of the county’s first curry houses. Its madras sauce was thought to be the hottest in central Lancashire. In the 1970s, it was popular with local celebrities such as former Lancashire opening batsman David Lloyd (now a commentator for Sky Sports Cricket) who could often be glimpsed through the window, partially concealed behind a stack of pappadoms, tucking into his favourite dish of lamb bhuna with a bit of lime pickle. The Taj Mahal was destroyed in a fire in 1979, although Spatchcock believed it spontaneously combusted when the chef added too many chillies to an extra hot madras sauce.
Probably the greatest of the Seven Wonders – and certainly the newest – is the Great Pyramid of Stockport. Although Stockport is in Lower Lancashire (or Cheshire as it is better known today), Spatchcock made a strong case for including it in his list since the Pyramid is located on the northern banks of the great River Mersey, which was historically in Lancashire proper. There are many mysteries surrounding the Pyramid, which Spatchcock thought was much more than just a call centre for the Co-operative Bank. Is there a secret chamber inside the Pyramid? What is buried beneath it? Why are so many mysterious flashing lights seen over it at night (apart from its proximity to Manchester Airport)?
Spatchcock was always something of a conspiracy theorist. He believed Lancashire was ruled by the Blackpool Illuminati, a shadowy group of shape-changing rodents who were behind the construction of Blackpool Tower and who secretly controlled Lancashire County Council.
Spatchcock’s beliefs were considered so far fetched that he was dismissed as a crackpot during his lifetime but his views are now gaining wider currency. Sadly, he disappeared in the summer of 1993 whilst investigating why so many narrow boats kept disappearing in the mysterious Weavers’ Triangle, an area astride the Leeds and Liverpool Canal that was once the heart of Burnley’s textile industry. Neither he nor his narrow boat were ever found.