The nostalgia column with Margaret Watson: Remembering the Black Bull as it opens its doors again

Having a ball: Local licensees pictured at the annual Licensed Victualler's Ball in Dewsbury Town Hall in the early 1950s. Edith and Harry Ellis are the couple pictured third from the left.
Having a ball: Local licensees pictured at the annual Licensed Victualler's Ball in Dewsbury Town Hall in the early 1950s. Edith and Harry Ellis are the couple pictured third from the left.

THE most talked about pub in Dewsbury at the moment is the Black Bull Hotel in Market Place, which was recently re-opened after being empty and derelict for years.

Following a massively expensive restoration and refurbishing programme it has opened its doors again and is now the topic of conversation in local drinking circles.

Margaret Watson.

Margaret Watson.

It opened just before Christmas and one man who was determined to be there at the opening was Dewsbury man Paul Ellis.

He wanted to be there because of his family’s strong connection with the pub which was once run by his aunt and was where his parents, Edith Slater and Harry Ellis, first met.

It was during the war and Harry was on leave when he called into the Black Bull for a pint and the young barmaid serving him was Paul’s mother, Edith.

The young couple hit it off from the start and within 12 months were married and would later have six children who would grow up listening to the story of how and where their parent’s first met.

Harry and Edith Ellis are pictured on their wedding day.

Harry and Edith Ellis are pictured on their wedding day.

At the time, the Black Bull was being run by his mother’s older sister, Emma, and Edith was helping out behind the bar.

During the day, she worked as a bus conductress in Dewsbury but on her day off she helped out in her sister’s pub.

Paul, a former Dewsbury councillor, remembers his late mother telling him of the afternoon when she first met his dad.

“She used to tell us the story of how one afternoon a young army sergeant serving with the Yorkshire Green Howards walked into the pub,” said Paul.

“He was on leave after fighting the Japanese in Burma for two years and was really happy to be home.

“He ordered a pint from my mum and they soon found they had much in common and shared the same sense of humour.

“She agreed to go with him to a local dance and it must have been love at first sight because within 12 months they were married and remained devoted to each other all their lives.

“They had six children, Kenneth, Stewart, Maureen, Malcolm, Sandra and me, the youngest, and now whenever I walk past the Black Bull I remember that story.

“When I see how brilliantly it has been restored, I cannot help but think what my mum and dad would have thought if they were still alive. I think they would have loved it.”

Paul believes his parents were meant to meet on that day in the Black Bull because for the rest of their lives they retained strong links with the local licensing trade.

After their marriage they decided to go into the licensing trade themselves but with Harry continuing his full-time job by day as a bricklayer and stonemason.

Their first licensed premises was Batley Carr Working Men’s Club, which Edith’s sister Emma had previously run before moving to the Black Bull.

By that time, three of their children, Kenneth, Stewart and Maureen had been born, and Malcolm and Sandra came later while they had the working men’s club. From there, they moved to the Cambridge Hotel in Town Street, Batley Carr, and then to the Knottingley Wells in Bradford Road, a bigger and busier pub which later became The Legends

Paul was born in the Knottingley Wells and still remembers as a child watching the Batley Variety Club being built just across the road.

“I used to watch the famous stars arriving to appear there weekly, and the ones which stand out in my mind most were The Batchelors.

“My parents later took over the old Westborough Working Men’s Club, now the Westborough Ratepayer’s Club, which is still going strong and where all my family are still club members.

“My mother had four sisters and two brothers, but it was the women who seemed to be more involved in the licensing trade than the men.

“My Auntie Emma held the licence at the Black Bull for some years which must have been difficult for a woman running such a busy town centre pub, but she had run other licensed premises before.

“She also ran the Batley Carr Working Men’s Club, and while there looked after a relative on her husband’s side, Donald Healey, who later became a Catholic priest and was chaplain at Toronto Airport in Canada.”

Another sister, Cissy, was landlady of the Miners Welfare club in Mount Pleasant, later to become the Taverners, adjacent to Batley rugby league ground.

Looking back through his family history, Paul finds it amazing that three sisters ran between them five pubs and four clubs in the district.