The Ring o' Bells is said to be one of the oldest buildings in Middleton, Greater Manchester, and may be one of it's most haunted. The pub's foundations are thought to date all the way back to Saxon times, and legend has it that a Druidical temple stood at this spot in the Iron Age - perhaps a place of ancient sacrifice. In the Middle Ages it served as a refectory for monks brewing their potent ale, probably in the area where the pubs cellars are currently situated.
The pub is said to be haunted by an unhappy Cavalier, from the English Civil War, who has been nicknamed Edward. The ghost, dressed in his royalist finery, had been seen on a few occasions, within the pub and outside by various landlords and a local lady. As well as sightings, 'Edward' has manifested in other less visual ways, including footsteps sounding on the stairs, and other strange noises. He has also been known to lay a heavy hand on customers, much to their surprise when they turn to find nobody in the vicinity.
One of the more frightening incidents was recorded in the Oldham Evening Chronicle, August 18th 1972. The Landlord at that time, Mr George Barnett, was checking barrels in the cellar around midnight when a stone was thrown at his shoulder. He looked around but no-one was in the room. This wasn't the first time Mr Barnett had been shaken by a strange event within the pub. He had felt a strange presence, and had even seen a glass slide along the bar, but the stone throwing seemed a more aggressive action. He speculated that someone had perhaps upset the spirit.
The traditional story about the Sad Cavalier suggests he was the son of the Lord (Stannycliffe) of Stannycliffe Hall in the 1600's. The Lord and his family were unwavering Royalists during the turbulent times of the Civil War. Unfortunately for them Middleton became more staunchly Parliamentarian (Roundhead), with the Old Boars Head becoming the Roundhead's headquarters in the area.
The story goes that a pocket of Royalist resistance - including the Lords son - survived in the area, and used the cellars of the Ring o' Bells as a clandestine meeting place. The cellars were linked to Middleton Parish Church by a secret tunnel, by which they could escape if their furtive council was compromised (this passage is said to have been verified by openings which were bricked up within the cellar).
One day somebody betrayed the son of Lord Stanycliffe to the Roundheads whilst he was still in the pub. He managed to flee to the cellars and down the dark tunnel, only to be cut to pieces by Roundheads who were waiting at the church by the passage exit. His body is supposed to have been buried under the flagstones of the cellar, where he is said to remain to this day. Some time in the past helmets and pikes have been discovered under the cellar floor, which date to the 1600's, but no human remains have been found.
At one time the snug (a small room in many old British pubs), which is situated directly over the cellar, was said to have been the room in which the Cavaliers plotted against the might of Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarian New Model Army.
This room has served as a focus for the haunting, and a seat within the snug was for a long time known as the Cavaliers seat, which was always said to be much colder than the rest of the room. Some enthusiasts, who were allowed to spend a night there, recorded colder readings in this area than in any part of the room.