The Hag of the Fylde: Meg Shelton the Fylde Witch of Woodplumpton

Updated: May 9

The dark story of Meg Shelton is that of witchcraft, curses, ghosts, and rising from the dead. Locals believe that the ghost of Meg Shelton still resides in Woodplumpton, northwest England, to this day. See what the locals have to say about the legend.


Meg Shelton's Grave
Meg Shelton was buried face down with a large boulder placed on top of her grave to prevent her coming back

The story of Meg Shelton, who is known in some records as Margery Hilton, was a local woman who lived on the Fylde, the stretch of farmland that runs inland from the Fylde Coast in the northwest of England.


Stories about where Meg Shelton lived do vary slightly, some researchers place her living in a place called Cuckoo Cottage near Singleton, whilst others claim she lived close to St Anne's Church in Woodplumpton.



The final resting place of Meg Shelton is the graveyard at St Anne's Church in Woodplumpton, you can still visit her grave to this day, just as we did to provide you with the photographs in this story. Her grave is very distinctive and stands out from the others here, noticeable from a distance is the large granite boulder that sits on top of where she was buried.


Going back to the 17th Century, Meg Shelton had a reputation around the local area as being a malevolent and powerful witch.


Farmers and locals blamed a lot of their misfortune on Meg, they believed she was responsible for causing sickness and death to their livestock. She is also said to have used her occult powers to steal from the local community.


The legend tells of how Meg Shelton could take the form of various animals to escape after carrying out her mischievous deeds.


One of the many stories of Meg speaks of how she was stealing milk from cows in a field, all whilst disguising her jug as a goose, it is said that the farmer saw milk dripping from the beak of the animal so he approached and kicked it, this caused the jug to transform back into its original form and shatter, spilling all the milk that Meg Shelton had stolen, the furious witch was said to fly away.


The legend tells of how Meg Shelton would walk with a pronounced limp which she apparently obtained whilst she was taking the form of a rabbit.

Meg Shelton grave Woodplumpton
The plaque that lies in front of Meg Shelton's grave today at St Anne's church. Image © Donkey Junk

It is said that Meg made a bet with her landlord that she could turn into a rabbit and race his dogs from Wesham to the cottage that she rented in Catforth. Meg said her only rule was that the landlord was not allowed to release a large black dog that he owned as she believed it was too dangerous, the prize for her winning the race would be the cottage that she was renting.


The landlord who had no intention of losing the bet and his property, let his black dog chase after Meg and it bit into her hind leg just as she got through the door of the cottage.


Another famous story about Meg Shelton was that one day she had transformed herself to appear as a sack of corn in a farmer's barn whilst she was stealing food from him. The farmer, who noticed he had one sack more than he was supposed to decided to stab each bag with his pitchfork, Meg let out a scream when he stabbed her with the fork, transformed back to her normal self, and fled the scene.


Meg Shelton died in 1705, she was discovered in her home after being crushed between a heavy oak barrel and a stone wall.


Locals were convinced that the devil had returned to claim her soul after gifting her with the dark powers he instilled in her.



At the time it was believed that witches had the ability to return from the dead, the locals decided that they would bury Meg Shelton in the graveyard at Woodplumpton under the cover of darkness in the hope she would not return.


The next morning, her grave had been disturbed and the corpse of Meg was seen laying on the grass close to where she had been buried the night before, this continued to happen for several nights as the locals continuously attempted to re-bury her.


The villagers of Woodplumpton called on the assistance of a priest from nearby Cottam Hall to consecrate the grave to prevent this from happening again.


However, the locals weren't satisfied that this was enough, they placed a large boulder over her grave to try and ensure that she couldn't dig her way out, they also buried her headfirst in a thin shaft in a bid to try and trick her to digging further into the ground if she was to awake again.


Meg Sheltons grave 2021
Meg Shelton's grave today, image taken 16/10/2021, © Donkey Junk

After the death of Meg Shelton, the legend of the Witch of Woodplumpton grew, since then there have been various reports of paranormal activity surrounding the grave and indeed St Anne's church.


One of the most famous claims was made back in 1920 when a family was visiting the picturesque church at Woodplumpton.



Their young son ran on ahead and into the church, excited to see what was inside, however, he quickly met with his parents again whilst running back out, screaming and terrified.


The young boy told his parents that an old woman in old-fashioned clothing chased him back out of the church, many locals believe that this report only confirmed what they already knew, Meg Shelton, the witch of Woodplumpton was still roaming the area causing mischief.


Stocks at St Anne's church in Woodplumpton
The stocks outside of St Anne's church in Woodplumpton are still there today

We took a walk around St Anne's church today whilst doing some research on the subject of Meg Shelton, it is certainly a beautiful church situated in the centre of the charming village of Woodplumpton, the whole area oozes out the feeling of a rich and interesting past.


Below are some of the first-hand comments from people local to the area and their stories and experiences of Meg Shelton, the Fylde Witch.


Grace Amy Johnson

When I walked round it the first time I got a funny tickly feeling on my footlike some one was trying to tickle it


Josh Burrows

I have recently been there with some friends and as we walked past I noticed my shoe lace to be untied I bent down to tie it and my friends carried on walking I then stood up to see on the other side of the church wall a ghastly blue figure could this be meg?


Barry McCann

There have been rumours of Meg's ghost being sighted. One boy once ran out of the church claiming a "haggard old woman" had chased him. It was probably the cleaner, poor old soul! Incidentally, the pub opposite boasts "Resident Ghost" along with its fine ales and grub. Sadly, the only spirits I have seen in there came out of the optics.


Chanz-south Africa

My great grand mother was a farmer in Lancashire. She told us a story bout Meg Shelton. She used to give Meg Shelton all the left over pig slop till one winter, she did not have enough pig slop to give away. She told Meg Shelton that she would not have enough slop, the witch then asked to see the pigs. she walked around touched each pig on the back with her stick saying how fat they were and that they should not eat to much. My great grand mother then told everyone how her pigs stopped eating their slop from that day on. That she was sure Meg Shelton had cursed her farm. My family were glad at the death of Meg Shelton, the witch. And could then get back to raising healthy pigs with a good appetite.


Bill

They have had to rebury here several times as people have claimed that she has been scratching and people have claimed to have seen her hand I once found a weird little rock next to the grave which had in carved faces, thanks for reading Billy Shorrock


Miriam

I have lived in Lancashire and never visited Megs grave until today that is. I honestly thought the story was a myth and that the grave didn't exist? Well...it DOES, I've just been there which is why I'm trying to look up here history and found this place. Felt sorry for Meg really.


Dave Lyn & Nicky

Just coincidence? I told my daughter about this when she was doing witchcraft in history and she wanted to visit it so we did. Lyn sat on the witches boulder on the Saturday and I joked about the bad luck she'd get, before the following Saturday, our washing machine broke down, house had flooded, (not connected)Lyn had to go to hospital via ambulance due to illness, we suffered a credit card scam & got our front gate nicked! now of course we don't believe, do we?


Bill Clayton

The ruins of Megs house can be found in a field just down from the church. There are just a few stones now, all grown over, but when I was a boy, my father and I went metal detecting in that field but when he got near to the site of megs house, the metal detector stopped working. He stepped back a few paces and the detector started working again. My father then found something, no more than a stones throw away from the ruins. It was a lead idol of a figure on a cross. The features on the characters face were all twisted. "My father took the idol home and my mother went mad at him. She wouldn't have the thing in the house, so he took it to the Preston museum, where I believe it still is. "The spooky thing was, that at the moment my father found the idol, I fell in the adjacent brook and nearly drowned that day...


There are many more stories and tales that surround Meg Shelton, whatever the truth is behind the legend of the Fylde Witch, there is no denying it has certainly impacted the lives of many people.


As we have done today, you can still visit the grave of Meg Shelton at St Anne's Church in Woodplumpton, if you decide to make a visit or have already been, let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


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