Published on April 5th, 2021 | by All Things Warrington

The Old Tramp of Padgate Iron Bridge

One of my grandfather George Green’s proudest moments was having one of his early childhood memories recorded for posterity by local Ghost Story writer Wally Barnes.

Padgate iron bridge, seen here in the late 1980s – an era when ghostly footsteps could still be heard walking over the bridge after dark – even when no-one was there (allegedly). 

Wally’s story told of my Grandfather’s encounter with ‘Old Nick’, a famous tramp-like figure said to haunt the old iron bridge close to the Padgate farm where he grew up in the 1920s.

My grandfather’s recollections originally appeared in one of Wally’s ‘Ghosts, Mysteries and Legends of Old Warrington’ books published in the late eighties/early nineties but sadly all now out of print.

According to Wally, the legend of ‘Old Nick’ began in 1925 when a farmer called William Bennett was harvesting corn with a binder and two horses. Out of the blue, around 20 yards from the iron bridge, his horses came to an abrupt halt. The farmer went to investigate only to witness a sight that shocked him to the core – a gruesome ugly man with glaring eyes and an odd grin. William Bennett fled in terror.

‘Old Nick’, as the locals labelled him, was seen on a number of occasions thereafter, usually staring up at the bridge with a cup in one hand and a bottle in the other.

George and Nancy Green, pictured a couple of years before their 1926 encounter with ghostly Old Nick. The Green family lived on a farm on the Bennetts Rec side of the railway line.

My grandfathers’ own encounter with the ghostly tramp came in 1925 during a wild Padgate thunderstorm. He was around ten years old at the time and lived a short distance from the iron bridge at Tidal Lane Farm (later demolished to make way for Padgate RAF camp). As he and his sister Nancy walked towards the bridge they were startled by the sound of wailing. They looked up to see the frightening figure of Old Nick being dragged away by two men. It was an incident my grandfather never forgot and over half a century later he still wouldn’t cross the bridge after dark – “not for a gold clock”.

It was probably a wise decision for according to Wally, even in the late 1980s footsteps could still be heard walking over the bridge, even when no one was there.

Wally finished the story with a rhyme:-

Old Nick’s ghost tramps Padgate’s bridge,
The most gruesome sight you’ve seen.
And if you don’t believe me,
Just go and see George Green.

Regrettably, my grandfather and Wally are no longer with us to recount the tale. George passed away in 1989 and Wally died in March 2013. Both were adamant tales such as Old Nick should not be forgotten. Hopefully by retelling it here the memory of Old Nick will stay with us a little while longer.

Wally presented my grandfather with a copy of the below illustration just before he (my grandfather) died in November 1989. The image was also featured in one of Wally’s ‘Ghosts, Mysteries and Legends of Old Warrington’ books. Tributes to both Wally and George can be found in the People section of All Things Warrington.

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