On the slopes of Swaledale, near the village of Keld, North Yorkshire, England, stands the shell of a 300-year-old farmhouse.
The building, curiously named Crackpot Hall, is an abandoned 18th-century farmhouse shrouded in its own myths and legends.
Its name is said to be derived from the Old Norse words for ‘crow’ and ‘cave’ and, not by chance, many of the underground caverns in the area are also known as Pot, meaning a deep hole.
An earlier 16th-century hunting lodge is thought to have stood on the site, when this area of Swaledale was part of a royal hunting forest.
Little is known about the history of the mysterious building, which was abandoned in 1953 because of subsidence caused by lead mining nearby that rendered it uninhabitable.
It’s thought that the building may also have been used as offices for the mining companies in the area.
In any case, the Crackpot Hall we see today was built on the site of the Hunting Lodge and dates to the early 1700’s when it was originally built as a farm house. But the mainly agricultural dale was transformed in the 1700’s when it turned into a hive of industry as lead mining attracted thousands to Swaledale to make their fortune to mine the lead ore (or Galena) from veins in the limestone.
During this lead mining boom Crackpot Hall became the office for the local lead mine up right up until the late 1800’s.
Archaeologists have also discovered the remains of bottles, candles and even dynamite wrapped in a newspaper from 1893 that the old lead miners had left behind.
The Hall changed back into a farm after the miners left the area.
It is now an intriguing and impressive ruin in an equally impressive location, as it sits on the edge of a remote hillside in the Yorkshire Dales, surveying the valley below.
Wandering among the quaint ruins, you inevitably start to wonder about the secrets this old stone farmhouse holds.
Of course, folk stories about the abandoned house abound, in particular one about a four-year-old girl named Alice who had reportedly been discovered roaming ‘wild’ and barefoot near the building.
In the 1930s, residents of the dale were captivated by her unsettling story which emerged from the valley, that also claimed her speech and dialect were difficult to understand.
The myth persisted over the decades, until in 2015 when a BBC radio documentary investigated the story.
They established that Alice was one of the children who lived at Crackpot Hall at the time, along with her five siblings. She roamed freely around the farm, and these hills and valleys were her playground.
Alice was in her early 20s when her parents decided to move to a new farm near Hawes with more productive land.
It seems a shepherd replaced them in the house, but apparently he was its final occupant.