Wessenden Head Inn, Austonley


  • also known as: New Inn, Isle of Skye Inn, Wessenden Lodge
  • location: Greenfield Road, Austonley
  • status: no longer exists
  • category: public house, beerhouse, inn, etc.

Situated on the northern side of the Greenfield and Shepley Lane Head Turnpike (Greenfield Road) in an area known as the Isle of Skye, the Wessenden Head Inn was in existence by the 1830s and likely took its trade from both travellers on the turnpike road and from shooting parties using the adjoining grouse moors. Contemporary newspaper reports suggest it was also known locally as the Isle of Skye Inn.

In November 1835, an inquest was held at the inn over the body of "lunatic pauper" John Horrocks of Saddleworth, who had been found dead on Wessenden Head Moors.[1]

By 1837, the landlord was David Clough who advertised in the Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle (14/May/1837) newspaper that he owned a dog named Milliner who could outrun "any whelp in Hepworth" and bet "£50 or £100 a side" it would win in a race.

The premises was advertised for let in January 1846, when John Lodge was named as the current tenant:[2]


TO BE LET, all that INN, or PUBLIC-HOUSE, known by the sign of the Wessenden Head Inn, with a good Five-stalled Stable and Barn, Two Open Sheds, and another Stable, and Conveniences adjoining, together with about Five Acres and a Half of LAND in Grass, near thereto.

The Premises adjoin the Greenfield and Shepley Lane Head Turnpike Road, and are distant about 3 Miles from Meltham, 4 from Holmfirth, and 8 from Huddersfield.

Mr. John Lodge, the present Tenant, will show the Premises; and for further Particulars, apply to Mr. Kidd, Solicitor, Holmfirth.

Early Possession may be had.

The next landlord was Joseph Waterhouse. In July 1850, Waterhouse brought a charge of assault against his neighbour, gamekeeper Joseph Roberts (aka Joe o'Captain's) at Holmfirth magistrate's court. The pair were described as having "long been bad neighbours" and Waterhouse claimed that Roberts had "knocked him down on the moors, put his foot upon him, and [swore] he would shoot him". Roberts was fined 16 shillings.[3]

The opening of the Holmfirth Branch Line on 24 June 1850 appears to have led to an increase of visitors to the area, with horse-drawn cabs running between the railway station and the Isle of Syke. Together with the route up the Wessenden Valley from Marsden, the area had become popular with walkers and pleasure parties, perhaps due in part to George S. Phillips' series of "Walks Round Huddersfield" newspaper articles in the 1840s:[4]

Ah! we do not know how many delightful nooks there are in this district of ours. We have every variety of scenery, from the black, savage rock region — the country of Jotuns and Hrimthursar, — to the wild moors, the sunny meadows, and the quiet vales and woodlands. We have no room here, however, for description, of which I have often said how weary I am! Nor need I say more about the journey to the Isle of Syke than this : that it is full of excitement, of wonder, and of beauty. When you once reach the "Isle," as it is called, you will be awed as well as delighted with its aspect ; and if you are tired after your long wandering, you can climb the hills and gain the inn by the road side, and refresh yourself with ham, eggs, and a flaggon of "brewis," which will have quite a "Skyie influence" over you. You can then walk home by Meltham Moor, and as you sit over your comfortable blazing hearth in the evening, you can reflect with no small satisfaction upon the adventures which have occurred to you during your twenty-five miles walk.

By mid-1851, retired solider Thomas Batho had become the landlord and he placed the following notice in the Huddersfield Chronicle (05/Jul/1851):



THOMAS BATHO, having recently return home from the ever memorable campaign of the Sutlej, respectfully announces to his friends and the public in general, that he has lately entered to the above Inn, and hopes by the best attention, good Viands, and Reasonable Charges to merit a liberal share of their patronage and support.

The house has been newly painted, papered, and decorated, and is now fit for the reception of the most respectable Pleasure Parties.



N.B. — Isle of Skye is a pleasant distance from Holmfirth which parties may reach by railroad, whence they may easily walk or hire a Cab.

Batho, who had served as a Colour Serjeant in the 80th Regiment of Foot (Staffordshire Volunteers) and had fought in the First Anglo-Sikh War, was discharged with a pension in September 1847 due to suffering from "chronic rheumatic joints". An account of him time in India was printed in the Huddersfield Chronicle in August 1851.[5]

The brewery of Bentley & Shaw advertised the inn in July 1853:[6]

TO BE LET, that well-accustomed INN, known by the sign of the "Wessenden Head Inn", situate at the Isle of Skye, near Holmfirth. For Rent and particulars apply to Bentley and Shaw, Lockwood Brewery, Huddersfield.

The premises was again listed for let in the summer of 1854:[7]

TO BE LET, all that well-accustomed INN or PUBLIC-HOUSE, known by the Sign of the Wessenden Head Inn, situate at Isle o'Skye, in the Township of Austonley, about Four Miles from Holmfirth, and Two Miles from Meltham, and contiguous to the extensive Shooting Grounds, called Good Bent and West Nab. To an active respectable person, the above is a fine opening as the Shooting Season is just at Hand.

It seems the inn may have recently been rebuilt or extended, as several newspaper articles from the mid-1850s also describe is as the "New Inn, Wessenden Head".

In September 1854, the next licensee was widow Elizabeth Ainley who had recently built the Castle Hill Hotel. The licence then transferred to gamekeeper Joseph Roberts in March 1855 — this was the same person who assaulted landlord Joseph Waterhouse in 1850.[8]

At some point between 1857 and 1861, the licence was allowed to lapse and the premises reverted to a gamekeepers house and shooting lodge.

Following his purchase of the Goodbent Estate at auction in May 1879, brewer Reuben Senior opened the Isle of Skye Inn (initially a beerhouse) on the opposite site of the road in August 1879.


Notes and References

  1. "Inquest Before M. Stocks, Jun., Esq." in Leeds Times (28/Nov/1835).
  2. "To Be Let or Sold" in Leeds Intelligencer (03/Jan/1846)).
  3. "District News: Holmfirth" in Huddersfield Chronicle (13/Jul/1850).
  4. "Walks Round Huddersfield" in Bradford & Wakefield Observer (30/Dec/1847).
  5. "A Journey to "Bills o'Jacks" (Greenfield) or, the Top of "Alderman"" in Huddersfield Chronicle (16/Aug/1851).
  6. "To Be Let" in Huddersfield Chronicle (09/Jul/1853).
  7. "To Be Let or Sold" in Leeds Intelligencer (05/Aug/1854).
  8. "Meltham" in Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Mar/1855).