With such a long and storied history, it’ll come as no surprise that Leeds has a few haunting secrets within some of its most prestigious buildings.
From old mill buildings to family homes, former hospitals and vintage theatres, nowhere in Leeds seems to be safe from ghosts, poltergeists and paranormal activity – with Halloween almost upon us, are you brave enough to go and seek them out?
1. Armley Mills
By 1788, Armley Mills was the world’s largest woollen mill, before fire destroyed it. Renowned industrialist Benjamin Gott ordered it to be rebuilt, which gave us the one that’s still there today as Leeds Industrial Museum.
As you can imagine, it has a few skeletons in its closet. There have been constant reports of doors slamming shut and opening again for years, while people have also claimed they’ve been forcefully pushed, heard a small boy crying, seen a figure in a top hat and a Victorian woman in a black dress. Enter at your peril.
Armley Mills, Canal Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS12 2QF
2. Thackray Medical Museum
Formerly the old Workhouse Building of St James’ Hospital, Thackray Medical Museum now pays homage to the history of medicine through its exhibits, but that’s not all it has to offer, particularly if you’re after a scare or two.
It’s believed that there’s a waving woman dressed in 18th-century garments walking about and the ghost of a man in a white coat on their Victorian street. There are even more strange goings-on, like the sound of footsteps, knocking and banging – creepy to say the least.
Thackray Medical Museum, 141 Beckett Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 7LN.
3. Temple Newsam
One of Leeds’ most impressive buildings, Temple Newsam is a rare example of Tudor-Jacobean architecture, and during its 500-year existence, it has gathered a fine collection of ghoulish occurrences. There are two quite famous ghosts that are believed to roam its grand halls.
Firstly, the Blue Lady of Temple Newsam is thought to be Lady Mary Ingram, the granddaughter of Sir Arthur Ingram who bought the estate and whose family kept it until 1922 – she died two weeks after being robbed in a state of delirium. The other is the ghost of Phoebe Gray, a nursemaid at Temple Newsam who was brutally murdered by a servant called William Collinson, and whose spirit still roams the old estate.
Temple Newsam, Temple Newsam Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS15 0AE.
4. The Palace
Having been a famous watering hole in the city since 1821, The Palace is rightly regarded as one of Leeds’ most historic pubs. But it’s not all about pints and pies at this city centre boozer – there’s a ghost that wanders about the place too.
The ghost is believed to be that of Michael Hill, once a famous actor, singer, poet and entertainer, who died in the pub in 1948. He was thought of so much, that apparently the pub held a benefit concert for his family after he died, but it seems he’s decided to stick around for a little bit longer, joining The Palace’s loyal patrons for a pint or two to this day.
The Palace, Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DJ.
5. City Varieties Music Hall
Since its refurbishment in 2011, the 19th-century City Varieties Music Hall has enjoyed reliving its glory days, becoming one of the city’s most in-demand theatres. It’s one of the few rare examples of Victorian theatres left, but that’s not all that goes on in there.
There are a number of strange tales, from the sound of a piano playing well into the night to knocking and banging in the main bar and a red-haired woman who patrols the theatre when performances are on – it’s said that when she’s seen, it can indicate if a show will be successful. The oddest rumour, however, is that paranormal activity is believed to affect the paintings adorning the walls, becoming warped and the subjects fraught. Unbelievable?
City Varieties Music Hall, Swan Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6LW.
6. The House of the Hassetts
So riddled by ghosts and paranormal activity was their home, that the Hassett family invited notoriously ghoulish television show Haunted Homes to their property to show off its strange goings-on.
The Hassetts claimed that they had heard strange noises all over the house, including from the fireplace, witnessed hanging pictures falling off the wall, and their dogs refused to go into the cellar. Phil Hassett, the owner, was even woken up in the morning by being violently shaken – now that’s not something you’d ever want to wake up to.
7. Kirkstall Abbey
Kirkstall Abbey has stood since the 12th century, and while the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII emptied the place out, its ruins remain as one of Leeds’ most stunning attractions, with a museum to go with it. Yet, both are still haunted by their pasts.
The grounds of the Abbey are believed to be home to Mary, a woman who witnessed her husband committing a murder and turned him into the authorities. The Abbey House Museum next to the ruins is also thought to be haunted too, by the former Abbott of the Kirkstall Abbey who can sometimes be heard wandering around the museum.
Kirkstall Abbey, Abbey Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3EH.
8. Thwaite Mills
As one of the only fully restored and working water-powered mills left in Britain, Thwaite Mills has over 300 years of history – something that has helped it become a bustling tourist attraction. But its storied past also comes with some spooky tales that will send shivers down your spine.
Over the years, there have been tales of paranormal activity in the main mill building. They’ve had reports of everything from strange noises, knocks and bangs to feelings of being watched and followed. People have even claimed to see a full apparition of a woman and young child walking around the site.
Thwaite Mills, Thwaite Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1RP.
9. The Cardigan Arms
The Cardigan Arms has long been a popular place for a pint on the outskirts of the city centre, especially now as it has been taken over by Kirkstall Brewery. It’s a classic old Victorian boozer, designed by Thomas Winn, that was once a big part of Leeds’ thriving music scene a decade ago.
It was also around a decade ago that The Cardigan Arms came under suspicion of being haunted. Numerous people have spotted an old grey or white-haired lady stalking the cubicles of the female toilets in the pub, including one woman who saw her in the reflection of the bathroom mirror. That’s the last thing anyone needs looking at them while taking a pee, right?
The Cardigan Arms, 364 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS4 2HQ.
10. Leeds Beckett University Headingley Campus
Leeds Beckett University’s Headingley Campus is one of the busiest and prettiest campuses in the UK. Old historic buildings surround the huge lawn next to Beckett’s Park. Much of it has been there since the uni first opened in 1908, and with all that history, there are a few remnants of the past supposedly still present.
It’s said that there are ghosts everywhere. Folk have heard strange noises along the winding corridors of the James Graham Building, which used to be a World War One hospital. Others have the caught the sound of exasperated breathing in Bronte Hall and there are even reports of conversations in an empty Macauley Hall. Then there’s The Grange, the oldest building on-site, which is so overrun with supernatural activity that their cleaners have refused to go in alone.
Leeds Beckett University Headingley Campus, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 3QT.
11. Old Leeds Dispensary
Formerly the home of the Leeds Deaf and Blind Society, The Old Leeds Dispensary on North Street was also once a city centre hospital, but it now lies empty. Or so we thought…
It seems its history still haunts the Grade II listed building, with former staff and patients reporting a suit-wearing figure roaming its corridors, as well as groups of children running all over it. It’s left The Old Leeds Dispensary, or Centenary House as its now known, to be considered one of the most chilling buildings in the city.
The Old Leeds Dispensary, Centenary House, North Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JS.
12. The Leeds Library
The oldest surviving private library in the UK, The Leeds Library (not to be confused with Leeds Central Library) on Commercial Street, opened up in 1768 and still offers a unique literary service to its members to this day.
It also provides shelter for one of its former employees from many moons ago. It’s widely thought that in 1884, Chief Librarian John McAllister was working late into the evening when he encountered a “pallid and hairless” figure in one of the corridors. He later learned that the ghost he witnessed looked just like his predecessor Thomas Sternberg – maybe he just has a pile of work to get through still?
The Leeds Library, 18 Commercial Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6AL.
13. Leeds Crown Court
Although Leeds Crown Court only opened in 1974, the rumours of hauntings on the site go back much further. In fact, in 1874, people used to come here with the hopes of catching a glimpse of the resident ghost.
Today, you may find your curiosity piqued by the sight of an elderly, balding man who’s said to wander around the building. A security guard claimed to have spotted him walking down a corridor, but when he followed him into a room, he suddenly disappeared. And he’s not the only one, another guard refused to be alone in the building after seeing the same apparition elsewhere. Let’s hope you don’t ever need to spend a night in the courts.
Leeds Crown Court, Crown Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DA.
14. Leeds Town Hall’s Bridewell
Probably Leeds’ most famous building, the Town Hall has been the centrepiece of the city since opening in 1858. Designed by Cuthbert Brodrick, it was the tallest building in Leeds for over a century and housed much of the important business of the city, including a court and its bridewell cells.
They’re still there to this day, right in the basement of the Town Hall, and remain remarkably intact with the old wooden doors and benches, and even the toilets the prisoners used to use. One of those prisoners was so notorious, he apparently left his spirit behind – Charlie Peace. He was a burglar and murderer who was tried for the latter at the court before being taken to the bridewell as he awaited his execution over at Armley Prison.
Leeds Town Hall, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AD.
15. Temple Works
Temple Works has a magnificent history. The Grade I listed former flax mill was built in 1840, and became the biggest single room in the world when it opened. It’s famous for the imposing facade, which takes inspiration from Egypt’s Temple of Horus, and the factory, which was based on Dendera’s Typhonium.
But that’s not all that remains of the past – rumour has it there are more than a few ghosts inside. It’s believed there’s the spirit of a cat in the undercroft, as well as the presence of a former Kays worker roaming around the old canteen building. There’s even more in the main space, with loud sounds and shuffling reported over the years.
Temple Works, Union Place, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 9TH.Feature image of Kirkstall Abbey copyright Ollievision.