The Ring o’ Bells is considered one of the oldest buildings in Middleton, as it is also seen as one of the most haunted. In the past, the foundation of the pub is believed to date back to Saxon times, which also holds a legend connected to a Druidical temple that once stood at the very spot during the Iron Ages. It is thought to have served as a location for ancient sacrifice. During the Middle Ages, the building was turned into a refectory for monks who spent their free time creating a rather strong ale.
As for the haunting, the pub has a resident ghost that is called the “Sad Cavalier,” who has a nickname of Edward. The ghost is described as appearing in royalist attire and has been spotted on more than one occasion. He likes to haunt the pub and outside. A local woman and a couple of landlords have documented their experiences. One of the landlords of Ring o’ Bells mentioned that Edward also made himself known in many other ways. Sometimes, it was only his footsteps that indicated his presence, which were often heard on the stairs. Other times, he is blamed for additional strange noises.
Edward also has a reputation for placing a heavy hand on customers, which has occurred when someone has felt the touch of an entity that was nowhere to be seen when they turn around. One of the more scary incidents was recorded in the Oldham Evening Chronicle (August 18th 1972), which involved the landlord at the time by the name of Mr. George Barnett. As he was checking barrels in the cellar, he felt a stone hit his shoulder. He looked around the room and no one was in sight. This incident occurred about midnight and this was the first time that Barnett had been frightened from an odd event that took place within the pub. He also reported feeling a weird presence and even described seeing a glass slide along the bar, but over the years, he admits that the thrown stone was the most disturbing and violent of his experiences. It was his belief that someone had upset the spirit to move him to act in such a manner.
The Legend of the Sad Cavalier
A story regarding the Sad Cavalier places him as the son of the Lord (Stannycliffe) of Stannycliffe Hall, which dates back to the 1600’s. At the time, the Lord and his family were strong Royalists at a time when the Civil War was quite chaotic. In an unfortunate turn of events, Middleton became Parliamentarian, where the Old Boars Head was known as the headquarters for the Roundheads. Legend has it that a bit of Royalist resistance descended upon the region, which included the Lord’s son, which actually survived. The cellars of the Ring o’ Bells was used as a secret meeting spot. The cellars were also linked to the Middleton Parish Church by a hidden tunnel that served as an escape route for those who were found out in the cellar.
One day, someone betrayed the son of Lord Stanycliffe and turned over his whereabouts to the Roundheads when he was still in the pub. At that time, he managed to get away to the cellars and traveled down the dark tunnel, but was sliced to piece by Roundheads who were already at the church by the passage exit. It is said that his body was buried under the flagstones of the cellar, which is where his remains are believed still. Under the cellar floor, various items have been uncovered, including helmets and pikes, which date back to the 1600s, but as of yet , no human remains were discovered.