Haunted bridge where ‘devil will drag you to hell’ unless you hold your breath

The ghosts of highwaymen, Royalist soldiers, Victorian gentry and even a coach and horses have allegedly been spotted on a famously haunted bridge.

But they pale into insignificance when compared to the notorious local legend of the devil himself.

Devil’s Arch Bridge at Pencalenick, Cornwall, is so called because it is said that if you dare to walk under the bridge, you must hold your breath or the devil will possess your soul and drag you to hell.

No one’s come back from the fiery pit to say if it’s true or not, but you’d be braver than most to walk under the bridge at night as there is definitely a spooky atmosphere, just a satanic spit from both Penair and Pencalenick schools.

Legend says the road is haunted by a notorious highwayman who would dangle a noose from the apex of the bridge to hang passing coach drivers, before stealing the belongings of the passengers.

Spirit horses seem to be a thing here too – some locals have seen the ghost of a man on horseback, while others have seen a spectral coach and horses.

It is also said that the sound of horses galloping can be heard coming up the road, but they are never seen.

There have also been sightings of a man and woman in Victorian attire – him in a top hat and carrying a cane, while she is all in white and wears a bonnet.

And going back further in time, Truronians have also said they have seen the ghosts of Royalist soldiers, who made their last stand at nearby Tresillian and were hanged from the bridge.

In fact, the village played a pivotal role in the English Civil War.

Sir Thomas Fairfax, commander of Cromwell’s New Model Army, sent a summons of surrender to Sir Ralph Hopton – who had formed the Cornish Royalist Army in 1642. He replied in March 1646 that he was willing to negotiate terms.

The path over the bridge, which has recently been refurbished, was the old driveway to the Pencalenick estate and leads the way to another Cornish curiosity.

Hidden among trees across the bridge stands an impressive 35ft monument.

Built from granite but with no inscription, the imposing Truro version of Cleopatra’s Needle has always been a bit of a mystery. Unless you know your local history, the only way you’d find the monument is if you’re a keen walker and veer off the beaten track.

For many years it was assumed to be a memorial to Woodcock, a famous old stagecoach horse, which dropped dead on the road between Truro and Tresillian; at what is now known as Woodcock Corner, named in its honour.

A huge obelisk built for a horse is strange enough, but what appears to be the true tale of its provenance is odder still.

Francis T Williams, who owned Pencalenick, wrote to The West Briton stating: “The mystery monument was erected by Mr Vivian. There is a tablet to his memory in St Clement Parish Church. Mr Vivian lived in Old Pencalenick House, a small Georgian residence, which was demolished before 1883 when my grandfather built the present house.”

He added: “The story that I was brought up on was that one day Mr Vivian was standing in front of the fire when the floor gave way (it seems there was an old mine shaft beneath the foundations). With great presence of mind Mr Vivian grabbed the mantelpiece thereby saving himself from an early demise, and as a memorial to his escape he erected the monument.

“The tale is so improbable one feels there must be some truth in it.”