Empress Café, Rufford, c1920s.
Built c1920-22 by James Stock, it would become a thriving cafe and entertainment centre over the following years (Tango Cafe / Oasis mini-supermarket). It was knocked down c1985. The area is now Oasis Close.
The front part was a veranda with balustrade where there were tables and chairs, inside the café at the back was a ballroom. It was sold to people called the Meldrums and it carried on the same way. It was sold again and bought by the Leadbetters from Liverpool and renamed it the Tango Café (or Merry Road House). The Leadbetters went to town on the place and placed neon signs around, also sunk petrol tanks at the front and added fairy lights to the ballroom. There were side alcoves to sit out for a drink by the bar and wedding parties were also hosted.
Dancing took place every evening and the local football and cricket clubs held their dances at the café. The theatricals and stars came around after the second house at the Garrick Theatre in Southport, to drink and dance until morning - it was known far and wide.
The Leadbetters moved back to Liverpool and the Cafe was taken over by South West African Shipping Company for offices (around WW2). When they moved out after WW2 it then became a thriving mini market. The Forshaw Brothers took it over and was a great success for the village with a petrol filling station and mechanics and known as the Oasis Café / garage. When the brothers dissolved their partnership that was the end for the Empress Cafe, vandals got in and after a few years it was sold to a builder and was demolished along with house, and a row of semi-detached houses built.
The Empress Cafe was also used as a site for training youths in agriculture and another time it had a wonderful transport cafe attached which was run by Miss Betty Coulton, which served the transport industry well.
Rufford Old Hall, 2nd November 2013.
The ghost of the “Grey Lady”, as she has come to be known, is believed to have been spotted on many a misty evening by West Lancashire's twilight motorists. But who is she?
According to the owners of Rufford Old Hall, the Grey Lady is the ghost of Elizabeth Hesketh, a member of the great Hesketh dynasty who resided at the great hall for over 400 years.
Legend has it that Elizabeth had become betrothed to an unnamed soldier at the time of the Scottish wars. During a grand celebration in the Great Hall to celebrate the engagement, word came that a fire had been lit at nearby Ashurst Beacon. This signified that the Scots had crossed the border and all the soldiers at the feast had to leave for battle. Elizabeth shed many tears that night and watched the dawn break as she awaited the return of her loved one. After news came of victory, rumours that her loved one was on his return home gradually became lost in the distant gunshot smoke.
As the months passed she watched the driveway for his return, but he never came home. Elizabeth was heartbroken and refused to eat or drink, and eventually she withered away and died. But her sad spirit is said to live on.