Star Inn - John "Almighty" Whiteley
Situated at the bottom of Well Head Lane in Sowerby, the Rushcart Inn was formerly known as The Star Inn. Built by the Jennings family in 1798, the first landlord was a Captain Jennings, the son of Stephen Jennings, a provision dealer who supplied goods to the former workhouse at Bentley Royd in Sowerby New Road. When he died in 1800 the pub passed onto his wife, ten years later she married John Whiteley who was also known as "John Almighty"

He was a Sowerby Parish Constable and in 1827 held many local government offices. A man of curious habits he called himself "The Lynx Eyed Thief Catcher" or "The General". He was a supporter of the Whigs and stood as a candidate for Halifax in 1832. A large portrait was painted in his honour and hung on the pub wall for many years, later it was stored in an out building until it eventually became lost.

He would preach from a "pulpit" (an old Post Boy's box) in an upper room at the pub. At the rear of the building an old cottage was rebuilt in 1837 and later used as a prayer meeting house. By 1849 his debts had grown and the pub was put up for auction. He moved to live in Mill Bank and died in the Workhouse in Halifax on April 6th 1858, where he had lived for seven years. It is thought that he is buried in an unmarked grave at St Peter's Church, Sowerby.

The mystery of the "missing" portrait was solved when it turned up on the "Antiques Road Show", to be valued in a programme broadcast from Arundel Castle in West Sussex on the 9th of September 2007. The couple who now owned it had purchased it from an auction and were also curious as newspaper cuttings about the ghostly connections with The Star Inn came with the painting. They had also experienced some "strange events" since hanging the portrait in their home and felt somewhat uncomfortable with John Almighty on their wall! The painting was valued at 2,500.

It turns out that during the late 1950's when Frederick and Hilda Taylor were the licensees at The Star Inn, Whittakers Brewery removed the painting and for a time it was hung in one of their offices in Halifax. When the brewery closed the painting was auctioned along with other items.




The inscription around the frame read:

At the top:
JOHN WHITELEY AGED 44 YEARS

On the sides:
THE LYNX EYED THIEF CATCHER AND GENERAL CANDIDATE FOR HALIFAX A.D.1832

On the bottom:
THE REWARD OF INTEGRITY IN THE DISCHARGE OF ARDUOUS PUBLIC SERVICE
Many local folk would like to see the portrait of John Almighty return to where his origins are - on the wall of The Rushcart (Star Inn) Sowerby.

The ghost of John "Almighty" Whiteley reputedly haunts the pub!


By Jean Illingworth


For the location please see the main village photograph