Mary Baines (or Baynes) was born 1721 on a remote hill farm near Tebay. She stayed at home to look after her parents and never married. After her parents died she moved into a cottage in the village and lived there alone, an eccentric, with only her beloved cats for company. She died there at the age of 90 in 1811.
It would be a common enough story in any age, but in 18th Century England tales of witchcraft and magical powers were still common. Mary was reportedly very ugly and became even more eccentric as she grew older. Villagers treated her with suspicion and were afraid of her. When she was teased by children Mary would threaten them, and as time went on stories grew up about her powers and ability to perform magic and malicious deeds.
It was Marys love for animals that led to some of the more extraordinary stories. She hated cruelty to animals. One day she was reputed to have turned herself into a hare and led the local hunt into Tebay Gorge and then up the fell above Low Carlingill (the heart-shaped wood you can see from the motorway). By the time the exhausted hounds returned to Tebay she had allegedly turned back into Mary Baines.
Ned Sisson, landlord of the Cross Keys, had a dog which killed Marys favourite cat. A local labourer, Willan, dug the grave for it in Marys garden. Although Mary wanted to say a few words as the cat was buried Willan threw the cat into the hole and said:
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, heres a hole and in tha must Mary was angry and supposedly cursed him. When shortly afterwards Willan had an accident with a plough, blinding him in one eye, of course Mary was blamed for bewitching his plough.
Strange Happenings at The Cross Keys
Over the years people have reported strange incidents at The Cross Keys: glasses exploding on the bar, remote controls falling from shelves in the TV room, the owners dog, heckles up, barking at a corner of the room for no apparent reason and a bedroom door becoming locked from the inside. Optical measures sliding across the bar, witnessed by one of our regular customers and the assistant manager knew it had moved from where she placed it.
A longstanding Tebay resident, whose father was born at The Cross Keys, is sceptical but has to admit being surprised when both doors at the front of the pub blew open at the same time. If you dont think thats too alarming, check them out they open in different directions.
So, was Mary a witch with magical powers, or just an eccentric who loved her cats? Is The Cross Keys haunted by Mary, still unhappy that the landlords dog killed her cat? Or are imaginations just running riot after a few drinks?
Whatever your views, the current staff at The Cross Keys want to make sure that your visit is as enjoyable and interesting as possible and are happy to welcome all well-behaved dogs!