Once one of the grand country houses of Yorkshire, and home to the powerful Saville family, time has reduced Howley Hall to a small outcropping of weathered stones that barely hint at its long-lost grandeur.
Much of the original stonework has been removed to make buildings roundabout, but much of the cellarwork is still extant - albeit filled with earth - and the bounds of the house can be marked out on foot amidst the briars that follow the courses of old walls. At one time, the Bagshaw Museum in nearby Batley held a scale model of the house as it stood in its prime, but when I enquired about its whereabouts on a recent visit the staff were unsure as to where it was located.
The cellars themselves are, according to local legend, home to a "fabulous treasure guarded by a clocking hen." Those words alone - taken from the local history book Morley Ancient and Modern - have incited generations of small local boys to play dangerously with the crumbling masonry in search of riches (I myself have dug out several tonnes of bricks and earth from the cellars!)
As if that were not enough, tunnels are said to variously connect the cellars to the nearby Babes in the Wood pub and - stretching credulity, admittedly - Leeds.
But this lonely spot is also said to be home to the spectres of servants who were left inside inadvertently when the building was destroyed - their souls looking still for their bodies, carrying eerie, ghostly lamps in their ceaseless search.
Of course, this legend is based on the mistaken belief that the house was destroyed during the English Civil war. It is true that the house was under siege in 1642 prior to the Battle of Adwalton Moor, but the Saviles were still living there until the end of the 17th century, after which the dull reality of failing family fortunes took over. In 1719, the stones from the house were sold for reuse in the rebuilding of the Old Presbyterian chapel in Bradford.
Once a popular Victorian leisure spot, the site can be reached today from two directions - over the way from Howley Hall Golf Course, or from Quarry Road that runs up behind the Peugeot garage on Batley road.
You can park your car some way distant up this road, then follow a footpath for something short of a mile until you reach the ruins. As mentioned, most of the ruins are just rubble these days, but there are still a few fragments of standing wall and half-buried arches. The area is covered in scrub and small bushes, and is a pleasant enough spot to enjoy a sandwich and perhaps do a little birdspotting.