Clay House, Greetland

Looming above the junction of Stainland Road and Rochdale Road at Greetland, Clay House is one of the most imposing ancient structures in the Lower Calder Valley and a familiar sight to anybody heading along the old road from Elland to Salterhebble. The current four-gabled house was built by the Clay family between 1650 and 1661 on the site of an earlier house which is mentioned as far back as 1296. The estate was purchased by Greetland Urban District Council in 1923 and the grounds converted into a park which today marks the start of the Calderdale Way. Whilst public access to the grounds is still permitted, the house is now used for social functions and only open on certain days of the year.

In an article in the Brighouse Echo dated 11th September 1981, Mr. Ronald Innes, a former director of Calderdale Museums who was living out his retirement in a flat at Clay House, relates that the building was believed to be haunted by the ghost of a pretty girl called Jane, who stalks the house in a white dress weeping. The story goes that she fell in love with a man beneath her class and so was imprisoned in the hall to prevent her meeting him. Certainly a Jane Clay is recorded as living there between 1693 and 1709. She was married twice but the her first husband George Hopkins, the scion of the Clay family died in 1698. Whether she is the source of the legend is unclear.

For a first-hand account of supernatural phenomena at Clay House, albeit entirely different to that told by Mr. Innes, we must turn to the book Paranormal West Yorkshire in which Andy Owens relates the experience of Ms. Jayne Hewitt, formerly of West Vale, who used to walk her dog in the grounds of Clay House. One dark winter’s evening, she was walking up the driveway which leads from Rochdale Road and as she approached the house was overcome by a strange sensation of unease. Upon looking to her left where several trees border the drive for a split second saw the image of a man hanging from one of the trees. Unsurprisingly, she quickly fled the scene and never returned after dark again.

Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 12:16  Comments (15)  
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  1. I was very interested in this story. My grandfather lived at Clay House in the early 1900’s. At that time, the house was divided into 2, and another family lived in the other half (the daughter of which married my great uncle). My grandfather always maintained the house was haunted, and would talk of a lady in a white dress who would walk along the gallery, crying. He also told of finding a hole in a wall and picking at it, making the hole bigger and finding a door behind it, but was told to leave it alone. 10 years ago I visited Clay House and was fortunate enough, on explaining my connection to the house, to be able to take a look around inside. I asked if the house was haunted, and was told about the girl in the white dress crying. Interesting that 90 years after my grandfather lived there, the same story was told. If anyone knows anything more about this, would love to hear from you.


    • Many thanks for contributing that information, Linda. It’s particularly gratifying to see the site attracting further additions to the oral tradition of these places, so they can be recorded for posterity. And as you say, the continuity of the narrative over time in this case is very interesting indeed.

  2. I used to work there as a district nurse in the 1980’s–our cleaner had many spooky tales to tell, I was scared to be there on my own–the Ripper was also lurking around at the time I recall. The story is that a young lady called Jane fell in love with a worker and was imprisoned in the house–thee is something scratched on the window by her I believe. The cleaner heard children crying she said and and old woman in the corner or a room.


    • Thanks Barbara. Do you mind if I incorporate that information into the article?

  3. Hi again,THATS FINE Kai, but I did some research on Clay House looking for Jane–I went into the archives at Calderdale and coudl not find her, though I did plough through the family history, which I must have filed away somewhere–there were two families there I believe, was the later family called Dyson–it got divided up if I remember, but its all very vague, but it was fantastic working there for a year or two!
    Just up my street!


  4. Wow! i’m related to a Ghost!
    As far as i know my great grandfather died (only son) when my grandfather (only son)was around 7 years old (he’s now over 80, Ronald Clay) his widowed mother took him back to her place of birth to live, Hounslow. he said in his teens he received a letter saying unless he returned to Greetland he would never have his inheritance… he didn’t take any notice of the letter not having any memory of the place, he ignored it…. he told my mother about the letter and Greetland about 2 months ago and i thought i would have a poke about for prosperity…if anyone has any information on the Clay family that would be wonderful…Regards Matt, first son of the second son of Ronald….thanks.

    • My Mother related a story she had been told that indeed I young woman haunted the gardens

  5. Although I have “googled” and found a little history on Clay House Park in West Vale, Halifax, it doesn’t really help that much.

    As far back as I can remember, from very early childhood, I have had re-occuring dreams about the Park. It’s quite a gruesome dream about the park, and exactly the same dream every time!

    I do remember that the swings, climbing frames etc. used to be situated up the stone steps on the left hand side, as you enter the park, however, these were later moved to nearer the football pitch.

    My dreams are always regarding the area where the swings and climbing frames used to be, on the left hand side, as you enter the park. When I walk my dog through the park, I always have an uneasy feeling as I walk past this stretch, and I have always wondered if anything has ever occured around this area. I find it quite strange that the dream is always exactly the same, and have always wondered if something has happened here in the past?

    ……… having posted the above on “” nearly 12 months ago, I have now, amazing received a responce from a kind gentleman who read my posting. It was the detail above regarding “Jayne Hewitt”. Everything fits into place now! Both the unease, and the dreadful dreams I’ve had since being a child, all focus on the area on the left, as you enter the park from Rochdale Road. The area you describe in the park, is exactly where I feel unease when walking my dog, and also where I have the dreams about.

    The dreams are always the same, there’s coffin after coffin, laid out on the left, where you describe, all open, and with bodies in them, I don’t see what’s in the coffins, because by this time, I usually wake up in a panic! I also had a dream about there being lots of graves there, where people were laying flowers.

    Ironically, my Uncle’s name is on the war memorial plaque in Clay House, he was sadly killed in the second world war (my mum was over 20 years younger than him) and my mum barely remembered him, and I never ever thought that these dreams were in any way connected to my uncle, however, your explanation fits perfectly, and confirms that it’s not anything to do with my uncle.

    I have waited many years for an explanation, and thanks to this kind gentleman I have finally started to get some answers.

    • Yes there was a memorial in Clay House, I believe that it had been created at the end WWl. It was in a way neglected. Every year whilst we lived there in early November a wreath was delivered, from the Legion, to the house. My Mother and Father went on November 11, and put the wreath at the memorial, at the same time observing the 2 minute silence. There was no one else present but my father who had served in WW1 always remembered his comrades. Your Uncle was remembered by some one. I wonder if today this would take place.
      As a matter of interest my father later lived in North Dean Cottage, at the entry to North Dean Wood. When he died I came to England from Canada, my mother, sister and I strew his ashes in his favourite spot in the woods.

      Ethel Aked (nee Ratcliffe)

      • Ethel. The laying of wreaths now takes place in memory of those who gave their lives in WW1. The local Scouts, Beavers, Councillors and British Legion et al lay wreaths below the renovated memorial, about a dozen wreaths overall. The last post is also played by a local trumpet player as well as a two minute silence. There is complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits served later.

  6. This house was built by my family ( although that succession failed, John Clay who built the house is a relative of mine) and I have dreamt about the Clays back living in our ancestral home.

  7. In 1942 to 1956 I lived in clay house with my father , Mother and sister. My Father was employed by Elland District Council as head Gardner for Urban DistrictI . It was a wonderful time of my life. My sister and I knew every nook and granny of the house and grounds. We played imaginary games, climbing trees,making secret bowers,
    decorating them with flowers – from my father’s garden. We imagined the ghost as Mary Clay and as a gilted bride had committed suicide and came to haunt the grounds. We never saw her although there was an aura about the place. I have lived abroad for over 50 years and have paid several visits to Clay House grounds., usually on my visits to the UK. The house and grounds is now changed. A nature Centre is located in the room at the back where the Home Guards had. a Meeting place during WW2. The gardens are not as beautiful as they were once. My Father had the most varied and wonderful Dahlias display and people came to see it. Those were wonderful days very safe from the War. Clay House is wonderful old house.

    • I will give you a short history of the day to day events from 1942/1956

    • What wonderful memories Ethel. Where do you live now?

  8. I live in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, left England in 1957 to marry and lived in Southern Rhodesia

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