Castle Hill and the story of its forgotten pubs and hotel

Anyone familiar with the landscape in and around Huddersfield will have seen Castle Hill.

Castle Hill Hotel seen here sometime in the early 20th century.
Castle Hill Hotel seen here sometime in the early 20th century.

Perched on a hilltop it is one of the most conspicuous landmarks for miles around. But while they might recognise the tower, they perhaps don’t know that there were pubs on Castle Hill long before the tower was built.

There has been a public house on top of Castle Hill as far back as the early 19th century.

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The first one was an ‘L’ shaped structure incorporating a licensed house with stables and was there until after the Second World War.

But it was not the only one, as a hotel was built close to it in the middle of that century – the Grade-II listed Victoria Tower – built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897 – wasn’t finished until 1899.

The landlord of that first pub was Richard Ainley. When he died in 1848 his widow, Elizabeth, became the landlady and when her licence came up for renewal three years later she put forward her plan to build a hotel on the top of Castle Hill.

The application was granted in March, 1854, readers of the local newspaper were informed that arrangements were being made for the speedy opening of the new and spacious hotel which had just been built at Castle Hill.

With the summer season approaching, the grounds around the new hotel were being laid out as a flower garden, pleasure grounds and a bowling green.

An omnibus ran between the town and the hotel.

William Wallen, Huddersfield’s first professional architect, is thought to have been responsible for the design of the new hotel with its castellated tower, although there is no written evidence to support this claim.

Another proposal by the architect was to come to nothing but was an omen for the future.

This was for a viewing tower at Castle Hill. About 26ft square and 95ft tall, the tower would have featured a restaurant, museum and observation room.

The new hotel was built alongside the existing alehouse (in 1855 this re-opened as a temperance hotel serving drinks such as ginger beer).

In 1874, the Castle Hill Hotel was taken over by Bentley and Shaw of the Lockwood Brewery.

It’s thought the old pub was demolished in the late 1940s or early 1950s, leaving just the hotel next to the tower.

The hotel was acquired by developers in the 1990s with plans to refurbish it. Planning approval was given in 2002 but during the course of demolition works the castle part of the hotel became unstable.

Permission was granted to replace the original building but as construction progressed it became clear that the new building was larger than that for which permission had been granted and work on the site stopped.

Subsequently, an order was served for the demolition of the building. Since then, the leaseholders – Castle Hill remains part of the Ramsden Estate which was bought by Huddersfield Corporation in 1920 – have submitted several new plans.

These were all rejected until the present application for a restaurant and bar with six bedrooms and a visitors’ centre was approved last October.

The low-lying building is at the centre of an ongoing debate and the plan will go ahead unless English Heritage refuses to give Scheduled Monument Consent for it.

In the meantime, we await the next chapter in the story of this popular landmark.

Brian Haigh is vice-chairman of Huddersfield Local History Society.