Boggart House, Southowram

Standing all alone at the end of Ashday Lane which runs down from Southowram and overlooking Cromwell Bottom, Boggart House is certainly evocatively located. In an article from the Brighouse Echo dated 11th September 1981, even their bluff local history correspondent “Rowan” is moved to admit “the magnificent sweep of land up to Ashday… (has) a peculiar brooding beauty”. It is also interesting to note that in other columns pertaining to his childhood in the early 20th Century, Rowan refers to this small tributary valley as the “Fairy Glen”. Whether this name suggests any authentic local tradition or just an Edwardian penchant for artificial romanticism is not clear.

Boggart House was originally constructed in the early 19th Century to serve as a gatehouse for Ashday Hall, which stands some little way above it. Ashday Hall itself is a venerable structure, with land connected to the de Astay family first recorded there in 1275. In the 14th Century, the tenancy fell into the hands of the Holdsworth Family and the present Hall was constructed by William Holdsworth between 1713 and 1738. Due to debt, it passed into the hands of the Drake family in 1792 and it was Thomas Drake who in the 1830s improved the estate, erecting the residence today known as Boggart House and an observatory on the hill behind it. Rowan recalls the house standing derelict by the 1920s and remained so until 1961 when it was purchased by Mr. Peter Turner and renovated.

It is uncertain exactly when Boggart House gained a reputation for being haunted. The recollections of Barry Chapman in “Childhood Memories of Southowram Village in the 1950s” suggest it was certainly known to children as such in that decade, whilst an entry in a series entitled “Country Walks Around Brighouse” first published in the Echo by the Brighouse Civic Trust in the early 1970s claims the house “once had a reputation for being haunted.” Equally, the exact nature of the haunting is vague. Speaking in the 1981 Echo article, Rowan blithely describes it as “a house legend claims is shared with spectres, goblins and bogeymen,” whilst Peter Turner revealed that a relative had witnessed a “little man with a ginger beard” in a cupboard and describes “strange noises which I have been unable to trace and lights going on and off for no apparent reason”.

However, perhaps the name of the house suggests an even older provenance. “Boggart” is an ancient Yorkshire dialect word for a capricious household spirit (a cousin of the Scottish brownie) who would help with domestic chores providing they were rewarded with a bowl of milk each night. But if the boggart felt unappreciated it would often take umbrage and start to display poltergeist-like characteristics, whilst several regional folk tales emphasise just how hard they were to get rid of. As a result “boggart” tended to be used idiomatically to describe any sort of unusual activity from the structure of a house settling at night to a horse inexplicably taking fright. Certainly, there are no shortage of boggart place names in the Calder Valley, including a Boggart Chair at Ellen Royde in Midgley, the Boggart Stones above Widdop and Boggart Well near Ogden Reservoir.

Boggart House, Ashday Lane, Southowram

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thankyou for this article, Peter Turner was my father and i grew up in this house. In May 2000 my husband and I bought it from my mother and have done further renovations to it. There are still plenty of unexplained things going on, like coming home to freshly boiled kettle of water and lights switching on and off but nothing too nasty. Feel really lucky to live here.

    • Many thanks for your comment Susan. Walking past your house when I was young was one factor in my lifelong interest in boggart lore so I’m glad to hear that the house is still in the hands of people who know and respect its history (although the sign does rather give it away!) and it’s fascinating to hear that the haunting is still “active”.

  2. On the subject of Southowram I wonder if the owners of Law Hill House where Emily Bronte once lived, have anything interesting to report?

    barbara

    • Barbra my name is Ben Marshall my familly used to own it all law hill house and the cottage where Emily bronte used to teach I can tell u a story that shows that is haunted every Sunday at 12.30 u could hear the tables and chairs move up stairs a mother ocasion my eldest brother saw a shadow looking out of window and I had a dog in there one day with me it wasn’t windy out side the door was shut going upstairs suddenly the dogs ears stood up and the door flew open on its own I have never moved so fast in my life I laugh now about it but I didn’t then so hope this helps u about law hill house thank u Ben marshall

      • Thanks for this comment, Ben. I’m very intrigued to hear further confirmation that Law Hill House may be haunted (see also this comment). Could you roughly tell me the year of your experience? Also, would you mind if I add your report to the website during my next update, or perhaps even use it in a future publication? I do not need to mention your name, if you prefer anonymity.

  3. we have just moved to the neighborhood, The Gate House ( No 3 Ashday Lane ) and would love to know some history on the house and the area. any advice on where to research would be gratefully received . our house has also got a haunting, supposedly 2 spotty dogs ! not heard or seen them yet though

    • Ah, yes, I’ve heard of the canine haunting, but just the bare fact–sadly I haven’t come across any further details regarding it. The best place to start researching Southowram history is the local studies collection in Halifax Central Library. I don’t think there are too many dedicated books on the area, besides a couple of pamphlets of memories of the village in the first half of the Twentieth Century. However, the Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society, which has been published annually for over 100 years now, contains plenty of articles of relevance. I think there a paper specifically on Ashday in the 1942 volume. You can read a full index at http://ow.ly/sM2Q9 I believe that somebody’s also trying to start up a local history group in Southowram; I think the village library have further details.

  4. I lived at ashday farm between ashday hall and Boggart house now sadly demolished with my family the bassinders from 1943 to around 1950.
    After the war a man called Gunter and his family lived at Boggart house who’s young children me and brothers use to play with
    Even then we knew it was haunted I can remember doors opening lamps going out when no drafts were present ,Gunter always called
    The ghost George dont know why I think just to make it more
    Less scary to us kids at the time.

    Joan Greenwood nee Bassinder

    • Thanks Joan, that’s fascinating information! I shall update the entry accordingly.


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