Curiosities of Barkisland

A Grade 1 listed building, Barkisland Hall is generally regarded as one of the most interesting mansion-houses in the Calderdale region. Although in many respects it is typical of vernacular architecture in the district during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century (such edifices are often dubbed “Halifax houses”), it has several additional features which make it unique. These include the three-storied F-plan structure, the two orders of fluted columns which frame the doorway, and the rose window above it, believed to be the earliest example of such a detail in the domestic architecture of England.

The Gledhill family had long occupied an earlier house on the site, but the extant building was constructed for John and Sarah Gledhill in 1638. John’s brother, Richard also resided at Barkisland Hall for a short time between its construction and his early death. The Gledhills were noted Royalist supporters during the English Civil Wars, and in the First Civil War (1642-1646), Richard served as Captain of a Troop of Horse under the uncompromising Sir Marmaduke Langdale, earning a knighthood for bravery from the Marquess of Newcastle.

However, Sir Richard’s contribution did not last long, as he was fatally wounded at Hessay, near York, during the fateful Battle of Marston Moor. According to historian Edward Lamplough, writing in 1891, “Gledhill… died in his own house an hour after he succeeded in gaining its shelter. He had received twenty-six wounds”. It is not clear if by “his own house” Lamplough means Barkisland Hall. Travelling the distance from Marston Moor with such grievous injuries seems to preclude it, as does the fact that Sir Richard is buried at the Church of St. Martin on Micklegate in York, rather than locally.

Yet if he had died at the Hall, it might explain why so many generations of Barkisland folk believed his restless spirit haunted the building and its environs. Sadly, accounts of his phantom are vague and by the early Twentieth Century the story seemed to exist as nothing more than a indistinct notion in the local psyche. There are no first or even second-hand accounts of encounters with the revenant, only a brief mention in a newspaper article from 1931, which simply states “Richard Gledhill’s ghost is said to haunt the area around Barkisland Hall”.

In 1636, Richard Gledhill’s sister, Elizabeth, had married another significant local landowner, William Horton, who in addition to Howroyd Hall and Firth House at Barkisland, also took possession of Coley Hall following its sale by Langdale Sunderland to pay the decimation fines imposed on Royalist supporters by Parliament following the Civil Wars. In this capacity the Hortons came to know the Non-Conformist firebrand, Rev. Oliver Heywood, who in periods of adversity often lodged with Captain Hodgson who was tenant at Coley Hall between 1654 and 1672.

Following the extinction of the Gledhill line, the Hortons took up residence at Barkisland Hall and upon the death of Elizabeth, the house was once again associated with supernatural activity. Rev. Heywood records in his diary for 2nd February 1671: “Mistress Horton the owner of this hall were we live died on Thursday night last… she lay from Tuesday to Thursday night speechless, not at all stirred, none were admitted to see her, many things considerable about her, several of the servants were affrighted with a great knocking and variety of music the night before she died”.

Domestic staff employed at Barkisland Hall were accommodated in a separate building erected in 1642 on Stainland Road nearby. By the early Nineteenth Century, this had been converted into a public house called the Griffin Inn and in recent decades, the established has also acquired a reputation for being haunted. The ghosts of an old man sitting by the fire and an old lady dressed in white, carrying a bunch of keys, have been witnessed on several occasions, in the taproom and cold-storage area of the cellar respectively.

As a relatively isolated hilltop village, superstition seems to have endured well into the Twentieth Century in Barkisland. A short distance from the Griffin Inn on Stainland Road stands Stocks House, so called because it was formerly the village lockup and an old set of stocks still survives beside it as a memorial to its former role. At some point it was converted into a private residence and it was probably during this process that a “witch-post” was added to the hearth to deflect the influence of baleful magic known as maleficium.

Chimneys and fireplaces were regarded as a vulnerable location by which witches could gain access to a house and so to the superstitious mind, demanded such apotropaic contingencies. Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud explain, “In Yorkshire farmhouses of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, hearths were screened by partitions ending in posts of rowan wood carved with cross-shaped patterns, called ‘witch posts’… Belief in their protective power continued into the 1920s, when Yorkshire builders made new ones when old houses were being rebuilt”.

Meanwhile, Peter Brears notes a further tradition associated with witch-posts, “A crooked sixpence was kept in a hole at the centre of the post. When the butter would not turn you took a knitting needle, which was kept for the purpose in a groove at the top, and with it got out the sixpence and put it in the churn”. Sadly, it is not clear if such a custom would’ve been practiced at Barkisland or exactly when the witch-post was added to Stocks House; whether it was an original feature invested with genuine belief or a later recreation of the vernacular style.

The Black Swan, Brighouse

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.

Published in: on February 29, 2012 at 13:55  Leave a Comment  
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The White Gate Inn, Hartshead

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.

Published in: on February 29, 2012 at 13:33  Leave a Comment  
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The Old Corn Mill, Cooper Bridge

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.

Published in: on May 22, 2011 at 10:59  Comments (1)  
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Pinfold Guest House, Elland Upper Edge

A familiar sight just before the road from Fixby begins its steep descent towards Elland, the building which now operates as the Pinfold Guest House was originally constructed in 1840 as the Black Bull pub. The establishment was forced to close in 1909 by the 1904 Licensing Act, which sought to restrict the number of “beerhouses” across the country and so reduce alcohol consumption. It was then divided into two private dwellings for many years before opening as a bed-and-breakfast. However, despite it being over a century since the Black Bull closed, the pub evidently endures in the local folk memory as the adjacent Pinfold Lane is still sometimes known as Bull Lane by long-term residents of the area.

In the mid-Seventies, Mrs. E. Parker moved with her husband into one of the houses in the building and almost immediately began experiencing uncanny disturbances, which she related to Terence Whitaker for his 1983 book, Yorkshire’s Ghosts & Legends. As soon as they set foot over the threshold, Mrs. Parker claims to have felt a “presence” and on their first night, after retiring to bed, they heard footsteps on the stairs. Her husband was convinced that a burglar must have gained entry and went to investigate, but predictably found nothing. The nocturnal footsteps persisted and were soon accompanied by a mysterious knocking from a certain section of wall in the sitting room, which would often respond to any answering taps.

One night, after they’d been in the house a while, Mrs. Parker had a vivid dream in which a fair-haired woman in a blue dress entered her bedroom and beckoning, led her into the cellars. Here, the apparition pointed to a loose stone in the wall and indicated that she should remove it. Mrs. Parker claimed to have always been afraid of the cellars since moving in and so the following day, her husband accompanied her down and sure enough, they discovered a loose stone in exactly the place revealed by the dream. They realised that the spot lay directly below the area of wall from which they often heard the unexplained knocking at night. Nonetheless, they removed it as instructed and left it abandoned in the middle of the cellar floor.

However, Mrs. Parker soon came to regret acting on the advice of the phantasm in her dream, for the haunting only seemed to intensify. Now, footsteps were heard all the time in the cellar, whilst their dogs would growl at the cellar door and refused to remain in the house alone. Then, one morning when Mrs. Parker was lying late in bed due to sickness, she heard footsteps ascend the stairs and a voice beside her bed say in a pitying tone, “Oh dear, oh dear.” At first, she thought it must have been her husband, thinking his sympathy odd because he rarely showed such an emotion. However, she later discovered that he had spent all morning out of the house, milking the cows.

That was the first incident which led Mrs. Parker to believe that the spirit, or whatever it was, must have some sort of “affinity” for her. Later, when her marriage was experiencing difficulties, she would often sit crying on the stairs where she’d most regularly heard footsteps and would feel a comforting presence envelop her. However, the ghost’s attachment clearly extended to sabotaging her attempts to leave. When Mrs. Parker found that it was all getting too much, a friend called round to offer her a place to stay. At this moment, she claims a coat hanger came hurtling across the room and struck the friend in the face. You suspect that with the constant turnover of guests at a bed-and-breakfast, the spirits will have had to learn to be less clingy.

Published in: on September 10, 2010 at 20:04  Comments (1)  
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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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The Three Nuns, Cooper Bridge

Although the current building is not the original, a hostelry by this name has stood on the site for centuries and enjoys something of a rich history. The original structure was built in 1497 and following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 it gave refuge to Katherine Grice, Joan Leverthorpe and Cecilia Topcliffe, the last three nuns at Kirklees Priory, from whom the establishment’s name was later taken. A local tradition claims Grice was seduced by one of Henry VIII’s commissioners and upon discovering she was pregnant, she committed suicide by drowning herself in the adjacent stream known as Nunbrook.

It is said that Oliver Cromwell stayed at the inn in 1644 en route to his victory at the Battle of Marston Moor, whilst in 1812 it was used as a meeting place by Luddites prior to their ill-fated assembly at the nearby Dumb Steeple and the subsequent attack on Rawfolds Mill. A collection of their weapons was discovered hidden in the ceiling in the 1920s. Sadly, despite its venerable history, the building was allowed to fall into dereliction and it was entirely rebuilt in 1939. The foundations of the original Three Nuns now lie hidden beneath the car park of the current one. Certain fixtures and fittings were transferred, however, including much of the oak panelling.

On 15th June 1985, the Evening Courier reported on a series a supernatural disturbances experienced by workmen during renovation work at the pub. Site manager Ian Thompson was troubled by doors mysteriously opening and shutting and the sound of feet descending the cellar stairs whilst he knew himself to be alone in the building. He told the newspaper: “I went into the cellar. It’s always cool down there but on that occasion there was a strange sort of chill about the place”. An architect reported a similar experience, whilst a plumber working in the cellar experienced a shadowy figure pushing past him, resembling a woman with a veil over her head.

The workmen attributed the disturbances to a carved ram’s head, part of the oak panelling of the original pub, which they’d discovered concealed behind plastering and removed for the duration of the renovation work. Mr. Thompson commented: “It has very strange eyes. They are almost human”. The whole affair was dismissed by the landlord Glyn Ashley, however, who said: “Frankly I don’t believe there is a ghost – it’s all in the mind. My wife and I have lived here for nine months and we haven’t heard a thing. The theory is that it’s all to do with the ram’s head but as far as I know that was a motif used by Ramsdens (a brewery) before the pub was taken over by Tetleys.”

The ram’s head was returned to its rightful position once the renovations were complete. However, the paranormal phenomena at the establishment clearly persisted as a new landlord was forced to carry out an exorcism in 1991, whilst Stephen Wade reports on more recent occurrences in Haunting In Yorkshire, such as a guest who “insisted he was being watched by a tall grey figure with a beard.” Similarly Kenneth Goor in Haunted Leeds mentions “Customers often complain of an old man who laughs at them, but when they complain to the management about his behaviour he disappears”. Goor also refers to continued poltergeist-like activity and cold spots in the pub.

In addition to the ram’s head, the supernatural manifestations at the Three Nuns have been associated with the unhappy spirit of the suicide, Katherine Grice, or even the Kirklees Prioress who bled Robin Hood to death and has been blamed for apparent vampiric activity in the vicinity of the outlaw’s grave, approximately half a mile from the pub. It has also been suggested that the building lies on a ley line – a conduit of mystical energy – which ran through Robin Hood’s grave and the Alegar Well at Brighouse. Leys are often associated with concentrations of supernatural phenomena, but they have been dismissed as pseudo-science by many sceptical investigators.

The Fleece Inn, Elland

The Fleece Inn — located amidst the rather incongruous surrounds of 1960s social housing at the top of Elland’s Westgate but in close proximity to both the Long Wall and Ellen Royde — is one of the most historically significant buildings in the district, not to mention one of the most haunted. The structure standing today is a classic 17th Century U-plan building which began life in approximately 1610 as a farmstead called the Great House and it is thought the remains of an even earlier dwelling may be incorporated in its fabric.

The Fleece’s reputation for hospitality stretches back to 1745 when it was still divided into three separate houses and one tenant by the name of George Readyhough provided ale for three thousand troops under General Oglethorpe who were marching to intercept Bonnie Prince Charlie on his return north. However, probably it’s most illustrious guest was Joachim Von Ribbentrop, recorded in the guestbook during the 1920s when he was employed as a travelling wine salesman, some years prior to his more infamous career as the Nazi Party’s Foreign Minister.

In 1782, prior to its conversion to an inn, the building was used as a vicarage by one Reverend Houghton, whilst after 1791 an upstairs room in the establishment was rented out to a particularly odd Nonconformist sect known as the Thumpers, who believed in praising God through jumping up and down. Their frenzied motion caused the floor to shake to such an extent that a chair in the room would also start to leap around and long after the sect had departed, that chair was said still to jump about of its own accord from time to time.

Later in the 19th Century, the Fleece gained a reputation as something of a riotous establishment. A story goes that one market day in Elland, a traveller attempted to defraud a local man who caught him out and chased the cheat back to the inn, where he was lodging. A fight ensued and one of the men was mortally wounded, his blood leaving a stain on the staircase which no amount of scrubbing could ever remove. The staircase and its grisly marking was a prominent feature in the bar for many years but sadly it was destroyed by careless workmen during renovation work in the 1980s.

However, a second memorial to the incident remains in the graveyard of Saint Mary’s Church. The vicar at the time, Rev. Christopher Atkinson, had long complained about the dissolute behaviour permitted at the Fleece by its landlord William Wooler, and so on the headstone of the murdered man, he ordered the following epitaph be inscribed: “Be warned ye thoughtless – ne’er that place frequent / Where sinners meet and revel all the night / And mix not in drunkenness and fight / Frequent it not nor its bad name know / For there lo! I received a fatal blow”.

The narrative of the murder is sometimes cited as the genesis of the Fleece’s most famous phantom, Old Leathery Coit. However, his story is strictly speaking not connected to the inn at all, but to a barn behind it which was demolished sometime in the 1960s. It is also likely that the tale of Leathery Coit, first recorded in print by Lucy Hamerton in her 1901 tome Olde Eland, has a much older provenance than the mid-1800s. The story certainly has all the characteristics of a folkloric haunting and may have been known in Elland for centuries.

Old Leathery Coit was usually described as a headless apparition in a battered leather coat, who would drive a carriage pulled by headless horses from Westgate down Church Lane and Eastgate to Old Earth and back again. At midnight, the doors of the barn behind the Fleece were said to open without human assistance and as he furiously rode out, it would create a sudden rush of wind. Hence, whenever such a gust was felt in the Westgate area during the hours of darkness, local people would comment “There goes Old Leathery Coit”.

Rastrick Constitutional Club

Established in 1897, Rastrick Constitutional Club on Church Lane (also known as the “Top Club”) was conceived as a more upmarket working men’s club and like many such institutions, one of its primary attractions was the snooker room, which was located upstairs above the landlord’s living quarters. A Brighouse Echo article dated 25th April 1974 describes how the room was once the source of mysterious and possibly ghostly noises.

The haunting began around Christmas 1973, when landlord Roger Hart heard footsteps on the floor above his living room after he had closed the club for the night. Thinking it must be a burglar, he went to investigate, taking his Labrador for protection. However, the dog cowered at the bottom of the steps and refused to ascend, leaving Hart to go up alone. When he entered the room and turned on the lights, he found the room deserted.

The footsteps were heard on successive occasions following that first incidence by several other members of the family, including non-residents. It apparently sounded exactly as if somebody was pacing around the snooker table. Most curiously, to reduce noise overhead, Hart fitted a carpet over the tiled floor in the snooker room. However, whilst the sound of ordinary customers was almost entirely cut out, the spectral footsteps continued as ever.

The Harts were at a loss to account for the reasons for the haunting. According to long-term members, no supernatural activity had ever been recorded there before. However, one individual speculated that the happenings maybe connected to the disturbance of graves at the nearby site of the demolished Crowtrees Methodist Church by roadworks, which occurred at the same time the haunting is alleged to have begun.

Published in: on March 27, 2010 at 21:35  Leave a Comment  
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The Round House, Brighouse

The Round House is a familiar sight to Brighouse shoppers, stood like a watch-house at the furthest limit of the town’s commercial centre, its bowed frontage projecting towards the main thoroughfare. Formerly it used to stand at the junction of Clifton Road and Wakefield Road, once a major crossroads until that artery was severed by the construction of the Ludenscheid Link town bypass in the 1970s. It had been built as pub in 1831, taking advantage of the relative liberalisation of the licensing laws in the Beerhouse Act of 1830. In later years it was named the Round Tavern until its closure at the end of 1999, whereupon it was converted into business premises but the building remains as distinctive as ever.

In a Brighouse Echo article dated 5th April 1996, the landlords at the time claimed the Tavern was haunted. Although the Barracloughs had taken over the pub some twelve months previously, they had only just moved into the upstairs flat when they began to see the apparition of a “small, gaunt-faced man with big eyes and short hair” in the cellars. The spectre was first witnessed by Mr. Barraclough and subsequently by his nine year old son, despite his father never having mentioned the experience. Some of the regulars reported similar sightings when they had used the cellars as a changing room for their pub football team, whilst the previous landlord’s dog had apparently always refused to enter the underground rooms.

The Barracloughs were so unnerved – especially their son, who was said to have been “hysterical and screaming” for hours after his encounter – that they called in local medium Jenny Bibby who sat by candlelight in the cellars and attempted to contact the spirit. She revealed his name was Walter and he had taken his own life in the cells of the former Magistrates’ Court next door (now the Salvation Army building) which must have been adjacent to the Round House cellars. However, she claimed his presence was not malevolent and that he repented of his crimes. Following twenty minutes of prayer, Mrs. Bibby concluded the “atmosphere had changed and the spirit had moved on”.

Published in: on March 22, 2010 at 21:44  Leave a Comment  
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