Today best-known as a pub and restaurant, the Old Corn Mill is also one of the most venerable locations in the district. There has been a corn mill at that site by the side of the River Calder since the Twelfth Century at least, when it is mentioned in the foundation charter of Kirklees Priory and gifted to the nuns. As with most of the Priory’s holdings following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it came into the possession of the Armytage family during the Sixteenth Century and remained so for almost five hundred years.
The present building was constructed in 1785, along with two water-wheels to power the milling operations. A fire in 1895 put an end to its use for such purposes, although the building continued to serve various functions until 1947, when severe flooding forced its complete abandonment. Following the death of Sir John Armytage (the last baronet to live at Kirklees Hall) in 1983, several properties belonging to the estate were sold off, the Old Corn Mill amongst them.
In 1988, it was purchased by John Akins who announced his intention to turn the site into a tourist complex including a hotel, restaurant and museum. In view of the proximity of Robin Hood’s Grave, the development was initially supposed to have a Robin Hood theme. Indeed, it was to be called Robin Hood Hamlet. But when the Old Corn Mill opened as a pub and restaurant in 1989, the theme had quietly been scrapped. Some have suggested this was due to pressure from Lady Armytage, who did not want the grave’s location to be publicised.
Then, on 30th March 1990, the Huddersfield Daily Examiner reported on a glut of supernatural activity experienced by the Akins family at their new enterprise. John Akins commented “I heard something walk along the roof of the house and my brother has had his hair pulled and his leg slapped”. His brother James, who worked as assistant bar manager, described a number of nocturnal experiences including being woken by the opening and shutting of doors, footsteps, grinding noises and the sound of a fire being raked out.
Meanwhile, head chef, Samantha Lodge, claimed “About two months ago I was woken up at 2am by the sound of banging. There was the sound of conversation which went on for about ten minutes, followed by the sound of someone dragging something really heavy in the hallway. I didn’t open the door because I didn’t dare”. Bar manageress, Marie Barnes, also reported that gas cylinders in the cellar used for pumping lager would turn themselves on and off, despite being behind two sets of locked doors.
Most suggestive was the experience of dry-stone waller, Eddie Ainley, who had been employed during renovations of the building. He described seeing “a person from the corner of my eye. He was wearing an old smock, a black beret and had a sack around his middle”. The sighting was given credence by a woman who’d lived in an adjacent cottage for over forty years. She had witnessed the ghost herself and believed it to be the spirit of a miller who had reputedly hung himself from a beam in the mill centuries before.