Located beside Leeds Road on the border between Hartshead and Mirfield (not far from Roe Head) the White Gate is perhaps better known today as the adjacent garden centre to which it has lent its name. However, it is also one of the most venerable public houses in the area and whilst its antiquity is not quite as great as the nearby Three Nuns, it was certainly standing in the early part of the Nineteenth Century, when—like so many hostelries in the vicinity—it was well-known to many of the men who participated in the ill-fated Luddite uprising of 1812.
Although it may not be as old as the Three Nuns, the White Gate shares a history of supernatural activity, albeit of a more benign character. The phenomena was reported to the Huddersfield Daily Examiner in 1978 by Alice Barker, who had served as landlady at the pub for the preceding seventeen years. She claimed that the disturbances first came to her attention not long after she moved onto the premises with her family in 1961, starting with the sound of disembodied footsteps ascending and descending the stairs at regular times of day.
Customers and staff also reported hearing the noises when the pub was known to be otherwise empty. The building was frequently searched for intruders and on one occasion the police were called, but nobody was ever found. Mrs. Barker added, “These days the family or the cleaner will often hear a man whistling during the day. We never see anyone. It is a happy tone and seems to be that of a cheerful man, so we don’t think we have cause to be frightened”. The apparition was dubbed the “Old Man” and the family began to refer to the ghost “as if it were a house-guest”.
The only occasion on which the Mrs. Barker admitted to feeling unnerved was when she actually glimpsed the ghost, one evening as the family were about to leave the building to attend a function. She told the Examiner, “I went upstairs to fetch my shoes from my room and saw an old man in a grey suit sat in my chair, warming his feet by the fire. He looked very kind and homely”. Despite the shock of the sighting, the apparition’s appearance confirmed the landlady’s intuition that it was a friendly spirit, who watched over the pub and its patrons.
When Mrs. Barker asked locals if they had any idea what might have caused the haunting, she was told a tale that connected the pub to one of the most notorious incidents in the history of the region. On the evening of April 11th 1812, several hundred Luddites gathered by the Dumb Steeple at Cooper Bridge and marched across Hartshead Moor to destroy the new cropping frames installed at Rawfolds Mill, Cleckheaton. Unfortunately, the proprietor was expecting them and met the attack with full force, utterly routing the ramshackle insurgency.
Following the defeat, many of the retreating Luddites made for sympathetic pubs in the area; a number had been fatally wounded in the attack and died of their wounds in such establishments. Local lore claims that one such individual, having being turned away from the Star Inn at Roberttown managed to stagger on to the White Gate, only to expire on its threshold. However, whilst this is certainly a satisfactory story to account for the haunting, most of those involved in the attack on Rawfolds were young men and so the narrative regrettably fails to tally with Mrs. Barker’s sighting.