Thursday, 13 October 2016

Dobbie Lane

Dobbie Lane and Dobbie Bank, Cark, Cumbria

Extract from The Annals Of Cartmel Or Annals Of Cartmel 1872 by James Stockdale, relating to the Dobbie that haunted Dobbie Lane

The road from the lower part of Cark to Holker did not, until about the year 1815, pass by the west end of the High Row Cottages as it does at present. The old road to Holker passed from near my house, through the place where the lower gateway now is, into Carke Villa grounds, and up the hill into where the coachhouse and stable yard of Carke Villa are at present, and then into the present Holker Lane. Where these barns, stables, and yard now are, the lane was very narrow, and overhung with high hedges, there being a deep and wide sandhole at the top.

This lane had ever had the terrific name of “Dobbie Lane!” and so terrific was it indeed, that even those who were the stoutest of heart did not pass that way to Holker on a dark night in winter without having, as the saying is in this country, “their hearts in their mouths!”.

About the year 1809, a servant boy, then in the service of my late father, was sent with some newspapers to Mr. Kirkes’, of Holker House, one dark winter’s night about eight o’clock. He, like everyone else, had his apprehensions of “the dobbie;” still he passed through this frightful Dobbie Lane without observing anything. On his return, however, and when just beginning to descend the steep hill, he ventured to look back, when, to his infinite terror, he beheld a ball of fire following him! In an instant he took to his heels, “terror lending him wings” - particularly as he could perceive that the ball of fire, as he called it, was close behind him. In a few minutes he entered the kitchen at Carke, where were sitting some of his fellow servants, and, to their utter consternation, fell flat on the floor in a fainting fit. Very soon my father and mother, and some relatives who were staying in the house, were summoned to the kitchen to witness this extraordinary occurrence. Restoratives were administered as quickly as possible, and in about ten minutes the boy was just able to utter the word “dobbie,” and then fell into a second fit, in which he remained some time. After a while he had so far recovered as to be able, trembling and terror stricken, to make known to them what he had seen, as he has been related above.  All those who heard the tale he told, of course laughed at him, believing that he was labouring under some delusion; but from what I am about to relate, the truth of which cannot be doubted, a different opinion probably will be entertained. Several years after this, about the year 1817, after Dobbie Lane had been closed, my brother, coming late one winter’s night from Cartmel, (about twelve o’clock), on passing through Hoker, saw a light opposite the gate which then led into the Pot Level, nearly opposite to where the present new schools are. As the light was an odd-looking one, and had passed across the road, and was then on the top of the opposite wall, he at first thought that some of the gamekeepers might be behind the gate with a lantern, and that the light on the wall was reflected from the lantern. Knowing that he would have, on his return from Cartmel, to pass through Cartmel Park Woods, he had provided himself with a brace of pistols, and with one of these in his hand he approached the gate into the Pot Level, when all at once the light (and a most unnatural-looking light it was) came flickering down from the top of the wall into the middle of the road, and on his approach ran before him at about ten yards’ distance, along the middle of the road, till my borther, in some astonishment, stood still; when it at once passed along the ground across the highway and up the wall, placing itself on the top a second time. Of course it was not easy at the time to account for a phenomenon of this sort. My brother then again walked forward, on which the light left the wall, and came a second time into the middle of the road, moving along the very centre as my brother walked forward, stopping short in its onward course and retiring across the road to the top of the adjoining wall on every occasion of his stopping, and as regularly leaving the top of the wall and moving along the middle of the road on his approaching it; and such were its vagaries all the way (200 yards) to the west end of the High Row Cottages, where my brother, on passing down to his own home, not a  little astonished, left it, about ten yards from him, in the middle of the highway, being then quite at rest with the exception of a slight fluttering motion. The light, it may be mentioned here, was a pale (phosphoric) light, rather bright, but not flashing or sparkling, and was about the size and shape of an ordinary pineapple.

It happened that I was awaiting  my brother’s return from Cartmel that night; and on mentioning what he had then just seen, I marvelled for a while, of course, and then said, “Surely this must have been ‘Will-o’th’-Wisp,’ let us go and try if we can see it again.” Accordingly we were not long in reaching the place; but it was in vain: for though we walked backwards and forwards for more than an hour along the lane and Pot Level Field,  the light never appeared again. No one will doubt that this was the luminous “Jack-o’-t-Lanterns,” or  ‘Will-o’th’-Wisp,’ to which the superstitious and credulous have ever ascribed extraordinary and mischievous powers, and was no doubt that “dobbie” previously mentioned, which so frightened my late father’s servant boy, and very probably from time to time many others, so as to give the name of Dobbie Lane to the old road from Carke to Holker. Even at this day, there are not a few people who, in passing on a dark night the gate leading into Carke Villa stable yard, and the hollow in Pot level Field, have not some apprehension of seeing this “dobbie” or a hobgobbling of some kind. It is well known that there are particular districts and places where this  ‘Will-o’th’-Wisp may occasionally be seen, and these are about swampy grounds, stagnant ponds, churchyards, and other burial places, and it has been observed to be but little affected by storm and wind, and to retire always on the approach of anyone, and to follow occasionally when anyone retires from it. The field call ‘Pot Level’’ adjoins the old lane called Dobbie Lane; it is bowl-shaped and of course the very reverse of level, there being in the middle of it, a  considerable hollow or depression, in which part, formerly, there was a rather deep pit or pond of water. Till about the year 1775 this field was rough, coppice wood, but was theng rubbed up and trenched over in the usual way. As a great quantity of stones and rubbish was turned out in this operation, the whole mass was thrown into the deep pond, so as to entirely fill it up, and some soil being laid on the surface, this part became much like the rest of the field. Anyone however looking at the hollow place in this Pot Level Field, even at the present day, will at once perceive where the pond or tarn has been, and in father proof of stones and rubbish having been thrown into the water, it may be mentioned that in the very dry summers the grass on the place turns brown, whilst in very wet weather the water rises above the stones and soil, appearing more or less on the surface.