Posted by Brian Gallagher on May 14, 2015 in Collections, Research, United Kingdom

The West Yorkshire Alehouse Licences Collection have been digitised for the first time and are exclusive to Ancestry


  • More than 75,000 historic alehouse records included in this newly digitised collection 
  • Haunted boozers include The Fleece Inn in Elland – home to a headless horseman named Old Leathery Coit
  • Other weird and wonderful pub names such as the Shoulder of Mutton and Golden Ball feature in the collection


The historic records of West Yorkshire’s most haunted pubs have been published online for the very first time. We have digitised the records from the The West Yorkshire Alehouse Licences Collection and they detail the names of more than 75,000 landlords and their respective establishments. Each record states the name of the landlord, residence, date and location, date of birth, name of public house, date of license and city – allowing people both in the local area and wider afield to find out more about their local pubs. Interestingly these records also help uncover the history of some of the county’s most haunted hostelries.


The Fleece Inn in Elland is one such pub – home to multiple mysterious occurrences over the years. This includes a fight between a traveller and local conman in the late 19th Century, which saw one of the men bleed to death on the staircase of the establishment. Despite numerous attempts, nothing could remove the grisly stain and it became a prominent feature in the pub for many years to come. The grounds of The Fleece Inn also play host to Old Leathery Coit – a headless apparition in a battered leather coat that reportedly takes up a seat on a carriage pulled by equally headless horses. Numerous different landlords are listed for the pub over the years including John Edward Briggs in 1902.

Other establishments with similarly spooky stories in the local area include:


  • The Old White Lion – located in Bradford and appearing in the collection in 1910, this ale house is reportedly haunted by daredevil parachutist Lily Cove who was famed for launching herself out of hot air balloons and parachuting back down to earth. Things took a turn for the worse however when she fell out of her parachute and plummeted to the ground at a local show in 1906. Still showing signs of life, she was rushed to the Old White Lion but died at the scene. Locals still report sightings of Lily – especially on the anniversary of her death.


  • The Dog and Gun – This Keighley pub appears in the collection under the ownership of James Cowgill in 1903. Legend has it that an old woman pig farmer was run over by a horse and cart on her way to the pub one evening and died shortly afterwards in one of the upstairs bedrooms. She now haunts the premises, taking a particular liking to the repositioning of ornaments and regular smashing of crockery.


Haunted or not, a parliamentary act of 1551 required alehouses to be licenced annually. Landlords were required to enter into a bond with the court in which they promised to keep their establishments under good order and not allow unlawful games to be played. These recognisances were made redundant in 1828 and licensing laws lapsed significantly until stricter legislation was brought in via the Licensing Act of 1872. As well as scary stories, the collection goes on to reveal some of the weird and wonderful names given to local pubs in the West Yorkshire area. This includes the New Dusty Miller Inn in Wakefield, the Golden Ball of Pontefract and even the rather unappetisingly-titled Shoulder of Mutton in Gomersal.


Digitised from original records held at West Yorkshire Archives Service, The West Yorkshire Occupation Collection 1627-1962 is now available exclusively online at Ancestry. As well as alehouse records, the collection includes over 6,700 apprentice records and nearly 45,000 occupation records, perfect for helping local people find out more about their local heritage.


“Public houses played an important part in the local community, hosting all kinds of activities such as social and sporting events, legal meetings such as coroners’ inquests and some court cases, radical and political meetings.  Many were also key stops on the coaching and rail network and offered accommodation.” Teresa Nixon of the West Yorkshire Archive Service said, “These records will open up a gold mine of West Yorkshire alehouse records and occupation records.”

Brian Gallagher

Brian is the International Social Media Specialist for Ancestry, working closely with our United Kingdom, Sweden, German and Australian teams.


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