Although it has now been converted into a desirable block of residential apartments, many long-term residents of the area will recall this imposing building on Elland Road standing derelict for many decades, looking like the very archetype of the haunted house. The mansion had been constructed around 1820 by John Rawson, originally of Stoney Royd House in Halifax (and whose family gave their name to the Rawson Arms which once stood nearby and now houses the offices of W.T. Knowles & Son Clay Pipe Works) but following a succession of illustrious owners, it fell into disuse sometime in the mid-Twentieth Century, possibly as the consequence of a fire.
By the 1980s, the external façade had been blackened by smoke from the surrounding industry, the windows were all shattered and the roof had rotted away, giving the house a gaunt, skeletal appearance. Within, plasterwork was crumbling and the staircases decayed. Yet despite this advanced state of dilapidation, Ash Grove was listed as a Grade 2 “building of special architectural interest” in 1983 and a succession of schemes were subsequently put forward for its renovation. Plans to redevelop it variously as a hotel, restaurant and old-people’s home all fell through and the mansion house was finally converted into a number of self-contained apartments in 1994.
A former occupant of one of the flats revealed that several residents of Ash Grove and even the landlord have witnessed the ghost of a gentleman at the bottom of one of the stairwells. Only thought to be have seen by other men, he would nod in acknowledgement as he passed by and then vanish. This part of the building also frequently smelled of Woodbine cigarettes, although nobody living there was known to smoke the brand. Woodbines were especially popular amongst soldiers during the First World War. In this regard, it may be instructive that Lieutenant Geoffrey Otho Charles Edwards, who had been born at Ash Grove in 1876, was killed in action in 1916.
Meanwhile, the largest apartment at Ash Grove today occupies what would formerly have been the servants’ quarters and seems to be haunted by an invisible bestial manifestation. The former resident reported: “You would feel things brush against your leg and hear the distinctive noise of our antique footstool moving across the wooden floor most nights. I would never stay over night or be left alone in that house ever again after what happened in my last month living there—I was laid awake in bed around 8.30pm reading… when something jumped on the end of the bed, circled around my feet and laid down, imprint was visible. I went to stay at a friends that night”.