John Batt built Oakwell Hall in 1583 and it is thought to be haunted by his descendent, William. It is now a ‘living museum’ furnished as the Batt family home in the 1690s. John was a colourful character but unfortunately for him took the Royalist side in the English civil war. This cost him dearly. He had to pay a fine of over £360 to the victorious Parliamentarians, a huge sum in those days. John and his family tried to recover their fortune in the New World, but sadly never quite recovered.
Since the time of the Batts, the Hall has been a home and a boarding school. In the 1920s, there was a plan to dismantle the Hall and take it to America. A public appeal prevented this, and the Hall passed into the ownership of the Batley Corporation. The rest of the estate stayed in private hands until much later. Purchased in the 1970s, it now forms the country park.
The Hall today
The Hall has had only minor alterations over the years and boasts a fine collection of period furniture. It, therefore, offers visitors a real insight into a post-English Civil War household. Author Charlotte Bronte visited the Hall in the 19th century. She later featured it as “Fieldhead” in her novel Shirley.
The restored gardens are well worth a visit, and over 100 acres of Green Flag award-winning country park. Facilities include a visitor centre, gift shop, nature trail, picnic sites and a playground designed for children of all abilities. Refreshments are available at the cafe and toilets can be found in the courtyard, but please check the Kirklees site for current opening times.
And if you can’t actually get to us at the moment – take a peek inside the house.
Pass by the magnificent fireplace, and visit the Great Parlour with its scumbled walls. Upstairs you can see the family Bible Box and the beautiful quilt and bed hangings stitched by the Oakwell Broiderers. Imagine John Batt working on the estate’s accounts in the small study. Or the hustle and bustle of the kitchen with its wonderful charcoal stove.
The Ghost of Oakwell Hall
Oakwell’s most famous legend concerns the ghost of William Batt, owner of the house in 1684. He was a young man of 25, a bachelor whose widowed mother, Elizabeth, lived at Oakwell. The best account of the ghost story comes from the Victorian writer Mrs Gaskell in her “Life of Charlotte Bronte”.
Her account is as follows:
“Captain Batt was believed to be far away. His family was at Oakwell; when in the dusk on a winter evening, he came stalking along the lane, through the hall and up the stairs, into his own room, where he vanished. He had been killed in a duel in London that very same afternoon of December 9th, 1684.”
The legend also states that the house is still haunted by William, and the bloody footprint he left in a bedroom can still sometimes be seen. The historical facts behind the story are as follows:
- A bond surviving in the archives shows that William was at the Black Swan, Holborn in London on December 9th, where he borrowed money.
- Local diarist Oliver Heywood included two entries about the death of William. One suggested that he died ‘in sport’. The other said he was ‘slain by Mr Gream at Barne near London’.
- William was buried in Birstall, on December 30th, 1684.
We would love to hear from any Batt descendant with information or pictures relating to the family, please contact us.
Is the ghost real?
We confess. The ‘ghost’ in the picture is not real and does not prove that Oakwell Hall is haunted. William was too busy playing cards to pose for a photo …
However, watch out on your TV for an episode of Most Haunted set in Oakwell Hall (series 16 episode 8) which might just show you more spooky goings-on!