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 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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Toothill Grove, Rastrick

Once located at the top of Toothill Lane, the now demolished Toothill Grove was built in 1805 and enlarged ten years later. By the Edwardian period the house was occupied by the Eastwood family and in 1910 it was the scene of a tragedy when Olive Eastwood, the popular daughter of the family, was discovered dead in the summer house, having taken her own life. Some weeks previously she had fallen from her bicycle and suffered a concussion which resulted in bouts of depression, leading the inquest returned a verdict of “suicide whilst the balance of the mind was disturbed”.

For many years after her death, until the demolition of the house in the 1960s, the girl’s ghost was believed to haunt Toothill Grove. The story was given credence by the fact that a blind appeared always to be drawn in one of the upstairs windows, said to be that of the bedroom of the dead girl, now never used. However, in an article for the Brighouse Echo date 18th August 1995, local history correspondent “Rowan” assures readers that it was in fact merely a dummy window installed for the purposes of symmetry and there was nothing behind the blind at all.

Although this is a somewhat prosaic and effectively debunked story, it illustrates how local tragedies and seemingly mysterious old buildings can quickly enter local folklore. The article in the Echo was prompted by an inquiry from a reader who had heard the house was haunted in his childhood but had no idea of the story behind it. Had Toothill Grove not been demolished it would probably still today have enjoyed a reputation as a “haunted house” in the oral tradition of local children, even without an attached narrative. All neighbourhoods have such buildings after all.

However, belying this prosaic naturalistic explanation, are the experiences of the woman who currently occupies a house built on the site of Toothill Grove. During alteration work, she discovered a concealed room behind the bathroom wall, since which time she has heard mysterious knockings in that part of the house and often seen a grey shadow in the corner of the room or on the staircase. She now wonders if the position of her bathroom might correspond with the former position of the bedroom in which Oliver Eastwood committed suicide.


Published in: on March 21, 2010 at 17:18  Comments (4)  
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The Globe, Rastrick

The history of the Globe, a prominent hostelry on Rastrick Common, is largely obscure due to a fire at the brewery which destroyed all records. However, it seems to have been converted into a pub from three former residences sometime in the early to mid 19th Century, whilst the suicide of a former landlord who hung himself in the bottle store in the “last century” was certainly well-remembered and a belief persisted that his ghost haunted the pub.

In an article in the Brighouse Echo dated 22nd January 1982, the incumbent landlord Geoff Clayton reports an array of familiar occurrences, such as pictures falling repeatedly from the walls and glasses jumping clear off the shelf. Owners had long attributed such activity to “Old Harry.” Meanwhile, Mr. Clayton’s dog allegedly always exhibited signs of discomfort in the vicinity of the bottle store, growling and bristling its hair.

A couple of weeks following the publication of the article, one Fred Marshall contacted the Brighouse Echo to explain that the suicide had in fact been of his father, Albert Marshall, and it had actually occurred on 17th May 1910. The 83 year old Mr. Marshall did not seem too perturbed by his father’s tragic death being raked up in such a sensationalist fashion, magnanimously declaring, “It is a long time ago now.”

Published in: on March 20, 2010 at 15:06  Leave a Comment  
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Asa Farrar Stone, Rastrick

New Dick is an old packhorse route which runs from the top of Toothill Bank to Clough Lane at Fixby and whilst it now comes to a dead end, bisected by the M62, it was once part of the main road between Wakefield and Manchester. The presence of a large and sturdily-constructed well attests to its former status. Nearby the well, the legend “Asa Farrar : Oct. 2nd 1859” is inscribed on one of the stones in a stile.

Local rumour once held that Farrar had been a highwayman who used to waylay travellers pausing at the well. However, whilst there is no definitive evidence that Farrar was not a highwayman, the actual story of how his name comes to be carved into that stone is arguably much stranger.

The 1851 census records that Farrar was a weaver’s son living at Oaks Green who by the age of 23, for reasons we will never know, was already tired of life and so carved his name into the stile as a memorial before attempting to hang himself from an adjacent tree. He had effectively tried to chisel his own epitaph and for years afterwards local people believed that the stone actually marked his grave and would not pass the site after dark for fear of meeting Farrar’s restless spirit.

However, Farrar was unsuccessful in his  suicide attempt but clearly the impulse plagued him throughout his life, for on 26th June 1908–by which time he’d reached the grand old age of 72 and was living in Elland–he tried once again. Three times, in fact; twice by hanging and once by a self-inflicted wound with a razor, but these attempts also proved fruitless.