One Filthy Night

Hambershaw Hall

Sex and death, debauchery and torture, sadism and masochism, fear and loathing - Hambershaw Hall has been witness to many deadly sins over the years and has even added a few new ones of its own. Built over six hundred years ago in what would have then been deep wilderness, it now sits high on the southwest side of Sheffield, on the Yorkshire/Derbyshire border, overlooking the valleys below.

At the time it was built it took the best part of half a day to travel by pony and trap from the embryonic city growing up where the rivers Sheaf, Rother, Rivelin and Porter meet the Don. Many of the visitors to that remote place, back in the early fourteen hundreds, were young lovers; expectant young men taking the often soon to be expectant young girls for a look at the evil, cursed mansion out on the moors. Even then, in the fifteenth century, the link between fear and sex and the knowledge that the one can so easily lead to the other was well understood by the simplest of males; this made the arduous journey more than worth it, especially around springtime, when the grass was lush and there was a feel of fertility and new life in the air.

Now, due to the deterioration of roads, the peculiar position of the Hall and the appalling inaccuracy of road signs in the area, it would take nearly as long by car - well, half an hour at least. And, though the purpose of the journey so often remains the same, the result is far less romantic: the sweet smell of hay and wet grass; the sensation of hair passing gently through fingers; and naked flesh pressing firmly against more naked flesh in the fresh, open air, has been replaced by the stench of petrol, cheap perfume and alcohol, and accompanied by sweaty gropings with legs wrapped around headrests and steering columns. What many people driving through the area might regard as convenient passing points on the narrow lanes, are, in fact, the sordid equivalent of peg positions around a fishing pond, the marked spawning grounds of twenty first century passion wagons - the best spots for short, stationary, bumpy rides.

One such place, absolutely the best spot on the lane, shielded from the eyes of other drivers by a sharp bend in the road and thick, spiky Hawthorn, boasts a modern day celebration of casual coupling with a display of used condoms hanging from the barbed branches of the hedge. Seventy six, saggy prophylactics, carefully arranged like little, limp bladders, each one a declaration of some desperate, cramped conquest. And, in the mud, ploughed by endless treadless tyres, half buried, were a hundred more, used and discarded like broken bodies on a battlefield, each a potential new life cast aside and forgotten.

Of course, somewhere so remote doesn’t only attract the victims of post-adolescent horniness - it is also a perfect place for those afflicted with murderous tendencies to take their victims. And it could be argued that, for every life created, by design or accident, there was another ended, and buried - in a field nearby.

It is the very fact of this isolation that gave rise over the years to the myths and legends and tales of terror that dwelt in the minds of ordinary folk: the evil lords that are said to have lived in the Hall with their varied, voracious appetites, from young virgin flesh to tastes so low and depraved, the mere words to describe them could curdle vinegar; and then there were stories of monsters, the devil’s creations that were kept at the tops of the towers, chained to walls, who fed off the bodies and souls of any unfortunate passers by.

And yet, rich as the imaginings of the terminally bored can be, no-one got even close to what really went on within those walls.

We are about to change that.

In the fourteenth century, next to where the Hall would be built a hundred years later, there grew up a small community: it was the village of Hambershaw. No-one has ever been able to explain why people chose to live in such a place. There was no obvious advantage, other than its remoteness, but the rumours persist to this day: demon-worshipping, magic-making, bestiality-practising, incestuous lost souls that could never integrate into the society that was developing down in the valleys.

The original owners of the Hall were wealthy and, for reasons known only to them, started a tradition whereby, on certain special days of the year (the unearthing of unusually shaped root vegetables, the birth of twin boys in the same house as the natural father, the discovery of a virgin over eleven), the people of Hambershaw would have the use of the building for their own celebrations. For hundreds of years those massive, ancient stones witnessed the happy and sad; exotic and sinful; peaceful and violent; pious and demonic; creative and depraved comings and goings of a largely interbred community.

If you can think it up, then Hambershaw Hall has seen it.