I first visted Creswell in around 2003 after my Geography teacher nominated me to do a university taster course for 4 weekends, thinking I might have a career in this field. On one of those Saturdays, the group, along with students from other schools in the area that had been nominated by their Geography teachers, used Cresswell to do some field work.
As I got more interested in the paranormal, the story of ‘The White Lady’ was one I got familiar with. It was in lots of local books and websites, and is probably the most well known ghost story in Northumberland. The only problem was, Cresswell Pele Tower was a ruin, and not possble to even see inside. Various amateur ghost hunters have explored the woods nearby, but the Pele Tower itself is really where you need to be. And in 2021, after months of restoration work, the tower is now open to the public.
But who is the White Lady?
Humans have been settled in Cresswell for thousands of years.During archeological digs in the area, remains from a Bronze age burial site were discovered close to where the Pele Tower now stands.
However, since the 12th century, the last was all owned and controlled by the Cresswell family, with the Robert de Cresswell being the 1st to be documented as living here in 1192. At some point in the 1300s, a fortified Tower was built, on the site of an older structure that can look out to see. Its aim was to offer protection against invaders after John Cresswell was kidnapped by Scottish invaders to a £40 randsome. This was a lot of money in the 14th Century!
Over the following years, a family hall wa built beside where the tower now stands. This is no longer visible, but you can still see lines in the tower’s northern wall which shows where this hall was once connected. There are other small signs of the hall’s existance, such as a gateway and a coach platform .
The White Lady is believed to be a daughter within the Cresswell family. The name and year are forgotten in history, but the story goes that she had fallen in love with a Dane. Some sources say he was a Danish prince named Rollo, and others who say he was just a normal man who happened to fall in love with the daughter whilst he was in England.
England had a turbulant relationship with Denmark over the years. They were at war several times, including being on opposite sides during the Anglo-Dutch wars. If this story has any element of truth, then it would have to be around this time era, because the Pele Tower was built many years after the time of the Viking invasions of the English coast.
The family did not accept this Danish lover, and did not want their daughter to marry him. A few local peasants living nearby were also waryabout a potential member of the enemy living in the area and having such a high profile status of being married into such a wealthy family of landowners.
Eventually, the family gave in, and they allowed the wedding to go ahead on the grounds of their estate. Her brothers were not to keen though, and they hatched a plan.
On the day of the wedding, the boat carrying the Dane arrived in Druridge Bay, the area of coastline that this Pele Tower overlooks. The brothers helped to bring the boat in and escorted the Dane onto the beach, where he was ambushed, and beaten to death. His lifeless body was carried up off the beach the a spot where an ice cream cafe now stands, tied to the back of a horse, which was sent up to the Pele Tower, the Dane’s lifeless body dragging behind it.
The daughter saw the horse approaching and recognised her man straight away.
This is where the story splits into different versions. One tells that as wedding guests screamed, the lady threw herself from the top of the tower to her death. Another version tells how she struggled to ever get over her grief, and starved herself to death, having refused to ever leave the Pele Tower.
Both versions say that her ghost is seen looking out to see from the top of the tower. But it doesn’t end there. She has been seen around the local area and many locals take this ghost story very seriously.
In the 1940’s, a woman called Margaret Moffat from Ashington used to work at a bakery in Cresswell village. Each morning she would walk to work before dawn, but occasionally would get a lift from pit workers at a nearby colliery, who were going home from night shift.
She claims that one misty morning, a white figure walked across the road and through the stone wall where the Pele Tower now stands. This was witnessed by other men on the cart, but they told her that it was a common occurance to see it.
The baker also owned a horse, and Margaret claims that the horse would get spooked and always refused to go near to the Pele Tower.
The August 1985, the story hit local newspapers again after a group of friends on holiday from Cumbria were having a beach party. Two of the guests crept away to be alone from the rest of the group, and were cuddled up below the ruins of the Pele Tower, when they noticed a woman staring down at them. The tower was gated and it did not even have a roof or middle floor at the time.
Another story from the 1950’s tells about a young boy that used to play in the woods nearby, and one day took his cousin to the ruins of the Pele Tower when they both saw a woman inside the ruins themselves, walking down the spiral staircase. Again, this was a time before there was an upstairs floor.
More than a legend? Watch the video above to see my investigation.