Tragic tale of Cleadon Mill and its girl in a red dress

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AS most South Tynesiders know, there is an old, abandoned mill house on Cleadon Hills.

The mill – or rather, what’s left of it – has been restored, and is one of the borough’s many interesting historical monuments.

According to legend, the mill was once inhabited by a couple and their young daughter.

The teenager was, by all accounts, stunningly beautiful and had a queue of local farmhands lining up to court her.  

Although the young lady could have had her pick of the local lads, to her father’s chagrin she fell madly in love with a young ne’er-do-well who was part of a smuggling gang working in the area.

Despite her parent’s protestations, the miller’s daughter met with her contrabanding beau at every opportunity.

Love, it seems, had blinded her to the darker side of her suitor’s lifestyle.

Whenever the opportunity arose, she would don her pretty red dress and engage in secret liaisons with the handsome young scallywag, always being careful not to draw her father’s attention.

But the young lad couldn’t have been all that bad.

He treated the miller’s daughter like a princess, showering her with gifts and kisses.

None of this impressed her father, however, whose mood darkened with every passing day.

At some point the young smuggler proposed to the miller’s daughter, promising to abandon his life of crime and embark upon a respectable career.

The girl, determined, then told her father of their plans, which was a terrible mistake.

Incandescent with rage, the miller forbade his daughter to leave the house ever again until she agreed to marry a suitor of better stock.

He also ordered her boyfriend not to come anywhere near the premises.

Understandably the young lady was distraught.

Unable to see her fiancé, she stopped eating and descended into the depths of depression.

In vain she tried to get her father to recant, but he stubbornly refused.

She would marry someone ‘respectable’ or not at all.

Devoid of hope, the miller’s daughter decided that she would rather die than be separated from the only person she truly loved.

The next day she approached the mill, ascended, took one last look at the beautiful countryside around her and promptly threw herself to the ground.

Sometime later, the miller found his daughter’s broken body in a pool of blood.

She was wearing the pretty red dress that had so enchanted her boyfriend.

What became of the miller, his wife or the daughter’s boyfriend I do not know.

However, the ghost of the young lady allegedly began to appear – still wearing the red dress – in and around the mill.

The story was that she was still waiting for her lover to rescue her from the clutches of her arrogant and possessive father.

Well, that’s the story.

I don’t believe that the ghost of the miller’s daughter really appeared, as the tale is too similar by half to others.

Female ghosts in red dresses are ten-a-penny, and I suspect this is just an earlier tale regurgitated with an unusual twist.

But what about the story itself?

I certainly think the miller’s daughter existed, and she may well have committed suicide as the tale relates.

The notion that her ghost appeared later may just have been a romantic addition.

To date I have found no examples of actual sightings of the young lass in local history archives – just recitations of the story itself.

Mind you, the ghost of the miller’s daughter is not the only weird story associated with Cleadon Hills.

Mystery animals – including a large wild cat dubbed “the Cleadon Panther” and a bigfoot-like hominid called the Cleadon Geet – have also been seen wandering around there and quite literally frightening the horses.

Any thoughts, readers?

* Seen something strange? Tell Mike at wraithscape@mikehallowell.com