Friday, 24 January 2014




The  Nevison's  Leap


The  Three  Houses




The Nevison's Leap  a modern pub situated in a residential area on the road between Pontefract and Ferrybridge not far from the A1 and The Three Houses  an old coaching inn at Sandal near Wakefield in West Yorkshire, reminds us that highwaymen were once prevalent in this area.  In those days of the 17th and 18th centuries when stagecoach travel was the order of the day,  the predatory activity of the highwayman was one of  the many hazards for such travellers.



William Nevison  one of the most notorious of these characters, a man renowned for his dash, ingenuity and fearlessness,  was born in Pontefract in 1639.  Although Nevison came from a good family, he stole from his family and soon left home.   He stole a horse and rode to London where he obtained employment and for a couple of years it seemed that he had settled down, but then he stole £200 from his employer and disappeared with the police on his tail.   He evaded capture and eventually enlisted as a soldier, serving in Flanders, but, ever the individualist, Nevison deserted and returned to his native land and became a highwayman.   His notoriety soon earned him the soubriquet Swift Nick Nevison with the reputation of aiding the poor. He rode and worked alone and reaped a rich harvest from the wealthy travellers on the southern highways until things became too hot for him and he moved back to his native Yorkshire where he was virtually unknown.   As he continued his nefarious activities Nevison soon had the local law officers after him and it is said that it was whilst being closely pursued by constables on the road between Pontefract and Ferrybridge that he took his horse on an incredible leap between two cliffs, making good his escape.    This chasm became known as Nevison’s Leap and was near to where the pub is now situated. Stories of this audacious freebooter are legend and he usually managed to keep one step ahead of the law but his luck ran out in 1684 when he was found asleep on a bench at The Three Houses.  He was arrested and tried for a variety of crimes and was hanged at York on May 4th 1684.

It was in fact Nevison who made the legendary run, wrongly attributed to Dick Turpin, from London to York.  This able and accomplished horseman had been arrested and accused of committing a robbery near London at 4.0.clock in the morning.  He was acquitted after proving that he was in York on the day in question, and had actually spoken to the Lord Mayor at 7.45pm.  Nevison  later boasted that he had made the amazing ride of 209 miles to York in less than 16 hours after the robbery.

It seems that although Nevison was dreaded by those liable to suffer at his hands, he was in fact a gentleman of the road, much respected by the poor to whom he was a good friend, and a contemporary ballad was written about him:

 ‘ Did you ever hear tell of that hero,

Bold Nevison was his name.

He rode about like a bold hero,

 And with that he gain’d great fame.

He maintained himself like a gentleman,

Besides he was good to the poor,

 He rode about like a great hero,

And he gain’d himself favour therefore.’




The  Dock  Green
This popular urban pub in Leeds built in 1903 was formerly a police station which closed down in 1961.  At that time the popular TV programme,  Dixon of Dock Green featured Jack Warner as PC George Dixon, an old time copper.   The building was soon acquired and tastefully converted into a pub, whilst retaining much of  the features of the former ‘nick’.   It is situated at the junction of Ashley Road and Harehills Road, close to St James’ Hospital – TV’s Jimmy’s.



The  Hermit  Inn


This old inn on the edge of Ilkley Moor recalls one Job Senior who lived nearby in a ramshackled shelter  in the early 19th century.   Apparently Job was born at nearby Ilkley in the 1780’s, the illegitimate son of a wealthy landowner.  He became a drunkard, which together with a problem with women, proved to be his downfall.   He became very unkempt and eventually suffered from rheumatism which necessitated him walking with two sticks.   At the age of sixty he managed to persuade an eighty years old widow to marry him.   It suited Job very much because she owned a house on the edge of the moor.  However the marriage was short-lived  when his wife died suddenly.  Her family, who were less than pleased about the marriage became more so when Job inherited his wife’s possessions including the house.   To vent their fury members of the family descended on the house and virtually demolished it leaving Job with no option but to construct his ramshackle shelter to live in.   Apparently it was so small that he had to enter on his hands and knees.   And so his lived as a hermit until he contracted cholera and ended his days in the workhouse, where he died when he was 77 years old.  

The  Cow  and  Calf  Hotel

This gaunt stone built moorland inn towers on the hillside on Ilkley Moor overlooking the charming town of Ilkley which nestles below in lovely Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales.  A feature of this inn is a restored Victorian garden. 850ft above sea level, with panoramic views.    Immortalised in song, Ilkley Moor covers a large area on the edge of the Leeds and Bradford conurbation and is extremely popular with  day trippers and tourists alike, all the year round.
Across the road from the pub is a rocky outcrop of millstone grit popularly known as  the Cow and Calf Rocks, Whilst the  Cow forms the main part of the formation, the huge detached Calf Rock,  looks as if it could easily roll away at any time, but it is in fact firmly embedded in the ground and has been for hundreds of years.  Prior to 1860, a third large rock, The Bull, stood much nearer the road, but it was broken up to provide stone for the building of the Crescent Hotel in Ilkley.



The  Running  Man  Inn



This pub in Pellon Lane, Halifax, reminds us of the terrible fate which awaited miscreants in the 
 ‘ Liberty of Halifax, ‘ in the West Riding of Yorkshire, prior to 1650.

‘From Hull, Hell and Halifax, the good Lord deliver us.’  What does this old beggar’s litany mean?   Hull refers to the prison there,  Hell is self explanatory,  whilst Halifax refers to ‘The Gibbet.’    Actually,  Gibbet is a misnomer  it was actually a guillotine!   This fiendish instrument of death fell into disuse in the mid-17th century, but a replica, mounted on the original base, can be seen in nearby Gibbet Street, whilst the original blade to be seen in Bankfield Museum.  Being axe shaped, it differs from a guillotine blade which is diagonally shaped.

Gibbet Law meant harsh punishment for relatively minor offences in this area of the West Yorkshire Woollen District.   The rules were simple :

‘ If a felon be taken within the Liberty of Halifax, either handabend  ( with stolen goods in hand);  backharend  (with stolen goods on his back);  confessand  (admitted theft); to the value of thirteen and a half pence, he shall, after three markets, be taken to the gibbet and there have his head cut off from his body.’

This related especially to cloth which was the life-blood of the town.   When the cloth had been woven and then washed, it was hung outside on ‘tenterhooks’ and so was particularly vulnerable to theft.   The gibbet was first used in Halifax in 1286.

The last two men to be executed on the gibbet were Anthony Mitchell and John Wilkinson of Sowerby.  They were found guilty of stealing sixteen yards of russet coloured kersey cloth, value 9s from Luddenden Dean, and two colts value £5.8s from Durkar Green.   They were introduced to the gibbet on 30th April 1650, making a total of fifty recorded victims..    After the gibbet fell into disuse, the ground on which it stood gradually became a rubbish dump.  In 1839, workmen clearing the site found the base of the gibbet still intact and nearby they found the skeletons of two men with severed heads!

It was actually possible to escape from the gibbet!  If the accused could remove his head before the blade fell and then escape over Hebble Brook half a mile away, he was free, provided he never returned to the Liberty of Halifax.  

The Running Man pub recalls that one, John Lacy, managed to do just that but he made the mistake of returning to  The Liberty after seven years and was duly executed.


A replica of the gibbet on origin base in Gibbet Street

The Old Cock Inn
The Old Cock Inn in Old Cock yard, is one of the oldest pubs in Halifax and is a Grade 11 listed building.  It has been an inn since 1688 having been built as a town house in the 1580's. The first floor Oak Room boasts a very fine Elizabethan fireplace which dates to 1881. This is the room in which the Halifax Building Society was formed in 1853.  Coiner, David Hartley was arrested at the pub in 1769. (see The Dusty Miller below).




The  Dusty  Miller  Inn


Mytholmroyd is about 5 miles from Halifax on the A646 through Calderdale in West Yorkshire and in the centre of the village there is an ancient hostelry,  The Dusty Miller Inn,  just opposite the A6138 which passes through the delightful rural valley of Cragg Vale.

An apt name for this pub would have been ‘The Coiners Den’ for this is where a gang of men, known as  The Cragg Vale Coiners,  used to meet back in the 18th century.    ‘Coining’ was the art of making counterfeit coins and this gang used a method of clipping or filing bits off coin of the realm and  melting down the accumulated gold or silver, which was then moulded and struck on a ‘die’ to produce a passable coin.  Coining, which  had been a problem for centuries, carried the ultimate penalty and the expert Cragg Valer’s were well aware of this fact.   Their leader was a man called David Hartley, or ‘King David’ as he was known and he lived at Bell House high up in Cragg Vale, where much of the coining was carried out.   The dies had to be made by a skilled craftsman and there were ways and means of bringing this about, and then all that was required was an expert ‘hammer man’ – he who could strike the die well enough to produce an accurate impression on the coin – and ‘ King David’ was Cragg Vale’s hammer man.

Things came abruptly to a head in 1769 when ‘King David’ and some of the gang were arrested at The Old Cock Inn in the centre of Halifax, by a government excise man, William Dighton, who had been sent to the area to investigate the gang.  Foolishly, some of the remaining members of the gang lay in wait for Dighton and shot him dead.   The upshot of the whole episode was that David Hartley and most of his gang were executed.

Hartley was buried in the old churchyard at Heptonstall where a simple gravestone marks his grave, and the original dies used by the gang can be seen in the little museum there.

The Robin Hood Inn




Whilst Robin Hood is usually associated with Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, several areas of the South Pennines claim some connection with the outlaw and his merry men.  Indeed he is supposed to be buried at Kirklees Priory in West Yorkshire. Cragg Vale near Halifax may well have been one of his haunts and the village inn there, The Robin Hood, has a colourful sign with the verse :


‘ Ye Bowmen and ye Archers good,

Come in and drink with Robin Hood.

If Robin to the fete has gone,

Then take a glass with Little John.



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