Updated: Aug 3
My previous post on the Quiet Woman in Rainow had started a bit of an online conversation. It progressed something like this.
"Wasn't there another pub called the Quiet Woman?"
"There was one in Earl Sterndale which closed a couple of years ago."
"There's also one in Leek, but that too is currently closed, I believe. Possibly permanently."
"There was also was one on the A54 Chester to Nantwich Road."
"Isn't the A54 Chester to Buxton?"
"I meant the A51, and the pub was the Headless Woman. Sorry for the confusion."
It also sparked my interest, and a bit of census crawling and directory delving followed.
The Headless Woman was a pub on the A51, midway between Tarvin and Tarporley, in the village of Duddon.
It used to have a headless woman in its car park.
But what's with the name? Why the Headless Woman? The reason for that lies deep in the past.
Going back in time we can see, if we screw our eyes up tightly and try very hard, that the pub used to be a Chester Northgate house before that brewery was acquired by Greenhall Whitley in 1949...
...but the history of the Headless Woman goes back a lot further than that. If we go back to 1834 we can see that it's listed in Pigot's directory with Alexander Maxwell as its innkeeper, even though the village's name has been misspelt, so the reason behind the name must go further back still.
The tale reputedly goes back to the time of the English Civil War. In 1644 parliamentarian troops found servant Grace Trigg hiding in the cellar of nearby Hockenhull Hall after her royalist masters had done a runner. They tortured her in an attempt to get her to reveal where the family's valuables were hidden and, when they failed to get any joy, they beheaded her in the attic of the pub and dumped her body into the River Gowy from one of the mediaeval packhorse bridges. Her ghost has been seen walking the locality ever since, her severed head neatly tucked under her arm. Washington Irving, of Rip Van Winkle fame, is reported to have stayed in the inn during his time in England with the story inspiring him to write The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
The pub stood for a further three-hundred and seventy years after Grace lost her head, before its own fate was sealed. It closed, and was put up for sale, in the summer of 2011...
...and if we take a peek from the opposite direction it will be plain to see why it was such an attractive proposition for developers.
The pub was demolished in 2014 and new housing now occupies the site. Like so many lost pubs, such as Gorleston's White Horse and the Black Diamond in Blyth, its name lives on, carried by the adjacent bus stop.
Just to round off I'd like to return to the conversation at the top of this piece. The Quiet Woman? Well, take a look at this entry in Pigot's 1828/9 edition.
Alexander Maxwell was obviously in residence at least half a dozen years before we met him above, and Pigot had managed to spell the village's name correctly this time, but look at the pub's name. I'm sure it wasn't really the Quick Woman. She was dead, after all, and the quick and the dead are two mutually exclusive groups. It's highly likely to have been a mistake and ought to have been the Quiet Woman. So Simon, you probably were correct with the name, but just a mere couple of hundred years out.
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