The Old Mill is set on the banks of the River Calder, a picturesque ancient former corn mill, once owned by the nuns of Kirklees Priory, now a beautiful riverside pub restaurant serving traditional pub food.
The attractive riverside terrace of this handsome stone-built mill overlooks the fast-flowing weir that once drove the mill race. Set in extensive grounds that also house a hotel and a school, The Old Mill is a tranquil spot surrounded by woodlands on a bend in the river, yet just minutes off the M62.The Calder & Hebble Navigation, which connects Wakefield with the Rochdale Canal at Sowerby Bridge, joins the Calder just downstream of The Old Mill and offers attractive walks through the Calder Valley. Just 10 miles south lies Holmfirth, the beautiful Pennine village on the edge of the Peak District National Park, best known as the location for the BBC comedy series Last of the Summer Wine.
Kirklees Priory, of which The Old Mill once formed part, was founded in 1155 and endured for over 400 years, gaining notoriety for its reputed role in the death of the legendary outlaw Robin Hood. Today all that remains of the Priory, the ruins of the gatehouse and some Grade I listed outbuildings, are on private land. A landmark building on the pleasant Calder River, the historic Old Mill is an ideal location for country dining and leisurely Sunday lunches. Dine al fresco on the riverside terrace when the sun is shining, or enjoy a pub lunch or seasonal special indoors amid exposed beams and open fires when it's chilly outside.Read more...
The Old Mill first opened as a country pub restaurant in 1988, but the history of the site as a mill dates back almost 1,000 years. It was already described as ‘the old myll’ in the Kirklees Priory foundation charter in 1155, when Reyner le Fleming established a Cistercian nunnery within the Manor of Clifton, on an estate stretching to the banks of the River Calder. After the dissolution of the monasteries, John Armytage bought the estate in 1565 and the mill remained in the hands of this distinguished local family until 1983, when it was sold following the death of Sir John Armytage. The present mill and mill race were built in 1785 with two waterwheels, one for grinding corn and one to drive the fulling mill, where local wool was cleansed and thickened.
Kirklees Priory was an important part of the local landscape for over 400 years, from 1155 to 1539, but it is best known for its reputed part in the story of the outlaw Robin Hood, based on interpretation of an old tale ‘A Geste of Robin Hode’ written around 1450. In the tale, Robin seeks aid from a prioress, interpreted by some to be the prioress of Kirklees, but dies from her ministrations, having shot an arrow through a window to indicate where he should be buried. A grave bearing an ancient inscription referring to ‘Roberd Hude’, enclosed by railings in the 19th century, still stands on private land in the Kirklees estate near The Old Mill, but although references to this alleged site of Robin Hood’s grave date as far back as 1562, many dispute the accuracy of the claim.
A short distance down the Wakefield Road from The Old Mill stands the Dumb Steeple, a tall millstone grit column that is said to have marked the boundary of the Kirklees Priory estate, where ‘doomed’ men could seek sanctuary. It is famous as the meeting place, in April 1812, of a group of Luddites who attacked Cartwright’s Mill in nearby Cleckheaton, when two were fatally injured by sharpshooters.
The Old Mill sits on the banks of the River Calder, historically of vital importance to the development of the wool industry in the Calder Valley. In 1770, the completion of the 21-mile Calder & Hebble Navigation opened up a coast-to-coast waterway by connecting the Rochdale Canal at Sowerby Bridge with the Aire & Calder Navigation at Wakefield. This vital transport route, which bypasses the weir at The Old Mill to rejoin the river just south of the pub, offers attractive towpath walks along the tranquil canalside.
The lovely Calder Valley countryside proved inspirational for the Bronte sisters, all of whom were educated at nearby Roe Head School in Mirfield during the 1830’s. Charlotte Bronte’s second novel Shirley, published in 1849, draws on many features of the area, including Kirklees Hall, the inspiration for her fictional Nunnely Hall.
Today, The Old Mill provides a warm welcome to visitors to this historic West Yorkshire valley, serving delicious pub meals all day every day, with a selection of fine wines and cask ales in beautiful riverside surroundings. It is a popular destination for meeting family and friends over a relaxed Sunday lunch, perhaps combined with a canalside walk or a trip to the Peak District National Park.