The Goblin Builders of Rochdale

In the time of the Doomsday Book, Rochdale was known as Recedham, an area ruled by Gamel the Saxon Thane. As thanks for his good fortune in keeping his manor in the wake of the Norman Conquest, he decided to build a church dedicated to Saint Chad on the bank of the river Roach.

The materials for construction were brought in and the foundations laid, yet overnight the whole construction, foundations and all, were mysteriously moved to the summit of the hill on the opposite bank.

This seemingly impossible deed led Gamels vassals to believe that this was the work of the Old Gods that their forefathers had worshiped and whose altars had been thrown down with the spread of Christianity.

John de Spotland (a subordinate Lord) had the construction moved once again to the original site and called for a watch to be set on the site to capture the delinquents responsible. It took fifty stout men and much difficulty to bring the materials back down the hill and across the river.

Because of the fear of supernatural retribution only one person could be found to keep watch, a dumb boy by the name of Uctred, unable to speak, only his mother had the power of communicating with him.

The following morning the construction site had once again been moved to the hill top and Uctred had disappeared.

A vagabond was found who had spent the previous night on the hill claimed to have witnessed crowds of strange-looking men, laden with terrific burdens. They seemed to be eagerly and earnestly at work, under heavier loads than mortal man could sustain, like ants on a hillock these goblins quickly transported all the materials up the hill.This stranger then showed Gamel a strange silver ring he had found inscribed with runic writings.

Rochdale Parrish Church

The current parrish church in the position dictated by the goblins.

At this point Uctred reappeared, having been found underneath a pile of building materials. Snatching the ring and placing it on his finger his form dilated and his whole figure expanded to almost gigantic proportions. With a wild unearthly shout this monsterous form ran from the Thane’s hall and no vestige remained apart from a whirlwind of dust, like a mist-wreath curling down the valley.

Pondering these events, it was decided that the church should be built on the site on which the foundations had been so marvellously conveyed and the parish church stands on that site to this day. One hundred and twenty-four steps were dug into the hillside to enable the good people to go to prayers.


  • Hi, dad, I remember you telling me this one when I was little! I cant remember how old I was, but I remember coming up the steps with you and Mum and maybe Cassie, and hearing the story attached to it. I didn’t remember where it was until I went up there a few years ago, just exploring the historic places in Rochdale, and remembered the writings on the stones on the floor.

    I don’t know why the goblins would want it up there, those steps are quite a climb.

  • Pingback: Gordon Batty Collection – St. Chad’s Parish Church, Rochdale. | Folk Customs

  • raymond sanderson says:

    The materials were gathered on the eve of the coronation of Henry 1st amidst great celebrations across the manor. The directions were verbal as to their siting which, considering the mental aptitude of beer and mead sodden minds that received them, became confused, thus were they taken to the wrong setting, removed and re-sited and removed again. After the third attempt someone suggested firing an arrow into the sky and building the church wherever the arrow landed. Thus, unfortunately for the labourers, it fell upon the top of the highest hill near to the river.

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