Denton

The late Ralph Reader, of Gang Show fame. grew up here and that has meant a singular honour for the local Scout troop who go by the exalted title of the 2nd Denton and South Heighton (Ralph Reader’s Own).

The church, the small manor house, a handful of flint cottages and The Flying Fish Inn are all that remain of the old village which has been engulfed by suburbia, though there are some old timers who remember when there used to be a dairy at the back of the pub and a spring at the side where the local farmers used to take their cattle to drink.

The church, where Parson Bedford preached for 64 years, was re-consecrated after the English Civil War because the Parliamentarian soldiers billeted here used the building as a stable.

A clergyman of more recent times had an unnerving supernatural experience at the manor house, which dates from 1724. He was the Rev E. Pinnix, rector of Denton in the thirties, who went to the aid of a newly-arrived family being scared out of their wits by a mysterious knocking in the old building.

It had all started when Sydney King decided to cut down some trees on the front lawn. They had been planted by a former occupant of the house who had made it generally known in the village that they should never be felled. The very next day his wife saw a ghostly figure and was so frightened that she screamed out loud. Mr King raced to the rescue and beat at the apparition with a stick – the weapon passed straight through and snapped against a wall. The ghost was not seen again. But then the knocking began. It followed a pattern, always four blows at a time and coming either 20 minutes before the hour or 20 minutes past with an interval of five to six hours.

The good Mr Pinnix and wife, together with an Evening Argus reporter. heard the phenomenon and the rector said a prayer, hoping to release the troubled, earthbound spirit. Unfortunately, the knocking continued unabated.

It all proved too much for the nerves of the King family, who moved out. The local bobby and some village men kept watch on the empty manor house after they had gone. Sure enough, at 10.20 pm, four loud knocks reverberated from the house. The men burst inside and searched from top to bottom. They found nothing. Denton folk found themselves the proud owners of a legend they had never heard of in the early 1960s. The Denton Dragon had been seen flying over the village again, the BBC’s popular Tonight programme solemnly reported. What dragon? the locals asked themselves. Not surprisingly the fire-breather hasn’t been spotted since.