Most of this has been told to me by my Dad who lived in Stockton, and has been passed down via his parents, grandparents and other ancestors. My uncle (Mr. Syd Wilks) also lived in the area of Stockton and has very kindly given me a personal tour of the village on the past two occasions I have recently visited, so as to bring the past alive again to me and given me an insight into my ancestors’ daily lives.
My Dad told me there was a reverend of the village church (St. Michael’s) who was carried around in either a glass topped or an open coffin when he was alive, to show the congregation that death was nothing to fear – though I can imagine this was terrifying enough to the congregation! I think that this was before my Dad’s time and must have been passed on by either his parents or Grandparents. It was obviously very clear in the villagers’ minds due to the extremity of the situation. I was also told of a vicar rewarding children by passing food (sweets or apples) down a pipe when they recited religious pieces to him.
I know my Dad also said that when he attended choir practice, the choir boys were often told about a haunted grave in the churchyard and if you ran round it three times the person came to life. My Dad told me that they all “ran round it twice, then ran like hell as far away from it as we could”. I don’t know if this is a legend that is well known in Stockton, or it well may have been the older boys of the choir trying to frighten the younger ones by inventing this story for a bit of high jinks.
There was also a vicar of the church that was well known for his particular bad cough. My grandfather was a church warden and was working inside the church, dealing with the treasury side of things, when another member came in and asked him if he had heard about the reverend. My grandfather replied that he was next door, as he heard him coughing a moment ago, to which the other member replied that he couldn’t have done as he had died the previous evening. Apparently my grandfather went white. Again, I apologise as I don’t know the vicar in question, but assume this must have been in the 1930s – 1940s.