Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Squire Light, the phantom rake of Bridport, Dorset

The town of Bridport made its fortune from rope. The broad pavements of the high street were formerly festooned with ropes, nets, strings and a whole host of similar products being twisted, woven, tied and dried. When sailing ships relied on good rope for virtually everything, Bridport was of key strategic importance to both commerce and the fighting navy.

It was this busy, vibrant and prosperous town that drew Squire Light of Baglake House to visit in January 1748. Squire Light was a well known local rake. There was no malice in the man, but there was usually rather too much wine for his own good. Chasing women, starting fights and generally making a nuisance of himself were the chief delights of Squire Light, alongside hunting and racing horses.

Quite what it was that drew Squire Light into Bridport on 12 January we shall never know. He said he had to see a man on business, but did not reveal who the mysterious businessman was. He came back late in the afternoon in a foul mood. After moodily walking about the house and shouting at the servants for an hour or more, Squire Light called for his horse to be saddled and rode off. Fearing something was wrong, his groom saddled a second horse and set off in pursuit. He was too late. Squire Light had reached the River Mangerton and drowned himself.

The groom dragged the body out of the river and set off to report the suicide. As he trotted sadly homeward, he was startled to meet the phantom of his master riding towards the River Mangerton. The groom fell from his horse and never really recovered from the shock, remaining jumpy and nervous for the rest of his days.

The ghostly shade of Squire Light may still be seen riding down to the banks of the River Mangerton. There he springs down from his horse and vanishes. Whoever he met in Bridport that fatal day and whatever they discussed, the repercussions are still to be seen.

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