Known colloquially as the Mucky Duck, the Black Swan is one of the oldest surviving public houses in Brighouse, along with its near-neighbours the Black Bull and the Anchor. It is located on Briggate, just across Anchor Bridge from the town centre, beneath the towering edifice of the former Sugden’s grain silos. Prior to the flour mill’s construction in the late-Nineteenth Century, the land behind the Black Swan was once known as Swan Fields and often played host to Rushbearing in August and the famed Brighouse Pig Fair in October, not to mention a variety of touring attractions such as the infamous Wombwell’s Travelling Menagerie, which passed through the town in December 1870.
The establishment which gave these fields their name (or was it vice-versa?) was originally known as the Black Swan Hotel and possessed three storeys, until the ceiling of the second floor was raised sometime in the Twentieth Century. Like most hostelries in Brighouse, its reputation has gone through many periodic cycles of respectability and, but in the early 1900s it was clearly known as a bawdy house. At the 1903 Brewster Sessions, police objected to an application to renew the pub’s license on account of “the publican habitually employing female musicians”. The license was eventually granted, but only on the condition that no female vocalists were engaged to perform in the building.
In recent years, the pub has gained quite a different reputation. Staff and regulars alike have come to regard the building as haunted following a spate of ghostly sightings since the start of the Twenty-First Century. Bev Jackson, landlady of the pub in the early ’00s often had inexplicable auditory and visual experiences; most dramatically, on mornings, before the pub opened for business, she often witnessed the visage of an elderly gentleman smoking a pipe sat at a table near the door. Her daughter, meanwhile, saw the apparition of a young man walk straight through the pool table and adjacent wall. Regulars suggested it could be the spirit of a former landlady’s son, who’d died of a drug overdose several years earlier.
An informant who worked behind the bar at the Black Swan during the last decade, claims that many members of staff refused to work in the pub alone and especially avoided the cellar, due to its uncanny atmosphere. On one occasion after hours, a barman was working in the basement in the process of closing up, when the door suddenly slammed shut and bolted itself. His fellow employee returned from swilling out a bucket in the yard to discover him beating frantically at the cellar door to be release. He angrily accused the barmaid of shutting him down there as a joke, but she denied it and to their knowledge, they were the only people left in the building.
A spectre known as the “White Lady” has also been seen on a couple of occasions and bar-staff would frequently experience the sensation of a woman brushing past them as they served. Local folklore attributed the phantom to a girl who had worked as a barmaid at the pub in the Nineteenth Century and been engaged in an affair with one of the stable hands. When she fell pregnant and her lover refused to acknowledge her or the child, she hanged herself from a beam on the third-floor of the building. Following the raising of the second-floor ceiling, only a low attic now remains of that upper storey. It is said the renovations were carried out for structural reasons, but perhaps the truth is rather less prosaic.