By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
A historic 18th-century pub with links to the Luddite rebellion could be knocked down and replaced with housing.
The owner of the Shears Inn, in Liversedge, has submitted plans to Kirklees Council to level the site and build houses on the plot.
Andrew Mitchell, who bought the derelict pub 10 years ago, says he has spent in excess of half a million pounds on refurbishment but that pragmatism has forced his hand.
The news has been greeted with disappointment by local historians, who say the pub, which dates from 1773, occupies a pivotal space in the area’s industrial heritage.
The Shears provided a meeting place for local textile workers who gathered one night in April 1812 in an upstairs room before lying in wait on Hartshead Moor and ambushing wagons carrying new cropping frames.
The machines could do the work of several workers in their little cropping shop at Hightown.
Shortly afterwards, on April 12, around 150 croppers marched on Cartwright’s Mill at Rawfolds in Cleckheaton. The workers – known as Luddites – were repelled by armed soldiers and two were killed.
The ringleaders were later hanged.
Mr Mitchell said he took the decision to opt for planning permission on the advice of his accountant as the pub was haemorrhaging money.
“I’m a local lad, and it pulls at the heartstrings to do this. It’s sad. I don’t want people to think that I’m being greedy.
“Ten years ago I took on a condemned pub and put nearly £500,000 into it. I wouldn’t have done that if I had an ulterior motive.
“But the licensing trade is struggling. It’s really hard. Everybody is in the same boat.
“I don’t want to give up on the pub but I’ve put £80,000 into it over the last 18 months and I haven’t seen that money back. I’ve had to submit to my accountant’s advice. It’s that or face bankruptcy because it’s dragging me down.”
Mr Mitchell says he hopes gaining planning permission for the site will make it attractive to developers.
But he warned that any changes to the pub are unlikely to happen immediately.
And he said he was still hoping to re-connect with an agent for the Co-op, which expressed interest in converting the site into a convenience store.
However he said it was unlikely that the pub itself would be retained.
Erica Amende, secretary of Spen Valley Civic Society, said it would be a shame if one of the few examples of working class history was to be lost from the area.
“It could very easily be bulldozed and a lot of people are very upset about it.
“The civic society has tried to get the Shears Inn listed by Historic England but they said there was nothing remarkable about the building and that the history associated with it was insufficient.
“That’s because the building was stripped out some years ago. Very little remains from the period of the Luddites.
“Spen Valley people feel like they have lost a lot of heritage.
“We have already lost the Red House Museum and the Whitcliffe Mount Foundation Building. Soon we won’t have any heritage left.”
Mr Mitchell had a message for critics of his plans.
“I’ve never seen them buy a pint in The Shears. If people supported local pubs this sort of thing wouldn’t happen.”