Exley Park Hotel, Exley

Sited on the steep hillside below Southowram and just north of Elland, today Exley straggles almost imperceptibly into Siddal but it is a much older and once distinct community, recorded as early as the 13th Century and featuring tangentially in the narrative of the Elland Feuds. Between 1909 and 1917 it was even home to the incongruous Halifax Zoo and Amusement Park, located in the grounds of the subsequently demolished Chevinedge Manor, from which elephants, bears and wild boar occasionally escaped into the surrounding woodland.

The Exley Park Hotel has been the settlement’s main hostelry since its construction in 1939, when there was little but farmland surrounding it, a far cry from the modern school and sprawl of mid-Twentieth Century social housing which now dominates the locality. The building remains imposing nevertheless, thanks to a design by the prolific and acclaimed Halifax firm of architects Walsh, Maddock and Wilkinson.

The interior of the hotel remained unaltered until substantial renovation work in 1972, the completion of which landlord Jack Carrington used as an opportunity to describe various supernatural occurrences he and his family had experienced during their three and a half year tenure. It seems to be a recurrent theme of pub-based hauntings that they appear in print when trade is slow or the establishment is reopening for business.

In an report in the Evening Courier dated 2nd November 1972, Carrington recalls how mysterious footsteps were often heard in the underdrawing above their daughter’s bedroom, whilst on one memorable occasion he entered the bar early on morning to discover two brass plaques had been thrown several feet from their usual position on the chimney breast, whilst the family dog was stood with her hairs on end, barking frantically in their direction.

Regulars informed Carrington that these occurrences were most probably the work of a spectre known locally as Old Jim or Old Jack, and supposed to be the ghost of a man killed during the construction of the building. No such deaths appear to be recorded and so this may well be another manifestation of the motif of foundation sacrifice, a corrupted remembrance in the folk tradition of a grisly practice designed to ensure the fortune of the structure.

The spirit of Old Jim was witnessed again in 1984 by the 14 year-old daughter of the licensees. It was approximately 6am on the morning of Christmas Day; she was just leaving her bedroom and was about to proceed to the lounge downstairs when the experience occurred. “A figure stood right in front of me…” she recalls, “I could see (him) clearly from the bright moon and street lamps… He just stood there a foot away for what seemed like ages”.

Her description of the figure matched that offered by the pub’s regular customers around that time and certainly sounds like a labourer. “The man I saw was short,” she added, “wearing boots, baggy trousers and braces. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and he wore a flat cap on his head. I remember thinking his eyes were very piercing, and they just kept staring straight at me”.

The girl reached out to touch the figure; at first he didn’t move, but as she attempted to repeat the experiment, the apparition vanished into thin air. She never saw him again, but claims that she often felt his presence, especially in a box-room attached to the large back bedroom. She felt that “the atmosphere there was always strained, like there had been some kind of tragedy; a deep sadness of sorts”.

Published in: on September 10, 2010 at 19:15  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My Parents ran this pub for a while in the mid 80’s and I can categorically state that Old Jack and the hauntings existed. I should know, I personally experienced them myself.

    • Thanks for your comments, it’s always fascinating to hear from people involved in the original cases. Would you be able to tell me more about your personal experience of the hauntings?

      • It was Christmas morning around 6am in 1984, I was 14 at the time. My brother and I had just opened our presents in my parents room. My sister was still asleep in our shared room at the front of the pub. Once my brother and I had opened our presents we left my parents bedroom, my brother went to the living room to connect his Spectrum 18 pc to the TV, I on the other hand went straight to the room I shared as I said, with my sister. The hallway up stairs is quite long and even though no lights were on I wasn’t afraid of being in total darkness. Even when I got to my room I didn’t turn the light on in case I woke my sister and in any case the room was quite well lit by the moon and outside street lamps. I didn’t stay in my room more than a couple of minuets, I’d decided to go and see what my brother was up too. That’s when I met ‘Jack’! as I opened the bedroom door to leave the room a figure stood right in front of me, just staring at me. Now remember the lights were out upstairs yet with the door open I could see Jack clearly from the bright moon and street lamps that shone in our room. He just stood there a foot away for what seemed like ages. I remember thinking, should I be scared! because I wasn’t scared one little bit. I stretched my arm out to touch him to see if I was going potty and he didn’t move, I withdrew my hand then did the same again, only this time ping…he disappeared. I casually went into the living room to ask my brother if he had be playing tricks on me, yet there he was knelt down by the TV playing on his pc. That’s when I realised I had met a spirit. I didn’t know at the time it was Old Jack till afterwards when some one in passing in the bar mentioned him. The man I saw was short and was wearing boots, baggy trousers and braces. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and he wore a flat cap on his head. I remember thinking his eyes were very piercing, they just kept staring straight at me. I never saw him again objectively, yet felt him around the pub many many times. The place I sensed him the most was in an off room to the large back bedroom. I used to play in there on my own, kinda made it my special place away from the rest of the family. It was very cosy with a bed and draws ect. The atmosphere in there was always strained though, like there had been some kind of tragedy, a deep deep sadness of sorts. It didn’t bother me though, I loved the peace and quiet the room offered me.

        All of my life I have encountered Spirit in one form or another, right from being a little girl I have always seen and heard them objectively and subjectively. I feel very blessed by my experiences and now use my gifts to help others by proving survival. That life does indeed go on after our material death.

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