The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson: The Market House pub in Church Street, Dewsbury

Raising the bar: A rare picture of the Market House and its famous landlord, former Dewsbury RL star, Jim Lyman.
Raising the bar: A rare picture of the Market House and its famous landlord, former Dewsbury RL star, Jim Lyman.

WHEN the Market House pub in Church Street, Dewsbury, closed in 2005 all its historic internal fixtures, including the bar’s original 1901 panelled frontage, ended up in a skip.

Founded in 1801, this was one of Dewsbury’s oldest pubs, an institution, but because no-one had the foresight to get it listed, its history was lost.

Margaret Watson.

Margaret Watson.

The building was sold to a property developer for £245,000 to be converted into offices, and all its historical features ripped out.

Although the exterior of the pub remains almost the same, its historical interior does not, but we can still write about what it looked like and keep its good name alive.

The pub started life in 1813 having been built from two houses owned by Mr Aquila Robinson and named the Flying Horse.

Three decades later, it was bought by Dr George Fearnly, Dewsbury’s first mayor and renamed the Volunteer Arms.

By 1890, the pub had been renamed the Market House, and in 1891 Benjamin Oates sold it for £1,301 to Joshua Tetley and Son of Leeds.

In 1901 the pub was pulled down and totally rebuilt with the public bar being situated in the corner and a smoke room on a higher level being separated by a server with a hatch into the smoke room.

The corridor was provided with sufficient width to allow drinkers to stand and chat, while more select customers used the clubroom upstairs.

Beyond the smoke room was a good-sized kitchen, and the cellar beneath included a large larder with a stone table, indicating that food was meant to be served there,

The landlord’s accommodation consisted of three bedrooms, one of which had the luxury of a bath and a separate wc.

But there were no such comfort for customers who had to use the urinals and wc in the yard.

More than any other pub in Dewsbury the Market House was closely associated with the town’s premier sport – rugby league.

The Lyman family, who were closely connected with the game, ran it for nearly 60 years, and one can imagine what the main topic of conversation in the pub used to be.

James (Jim) Lyman, who played with the Dewsbury Rugby League Club in the 1920s and 30s took over the licence in 1929 and was mine host there until 1962. His brother Joseph (Joe) was also a rugby league legend, having captained the Dewsbury team in the first Challenge Cup final at Wembley in 1929.

The two brothers ensured their names continued when Joe called his son, James, and James called his son, Joe.

It was Joe’s son James, however, who eventually took over the Market House in 1962 when his uncle Jim retired.

Until then, the pub had never been allowed to sell anything other than beer, but James applied for a full licence which he got and he ran the pub until 1986.

In the old days regulars rarely gave the pub its proper name, preferring instead to call it “Jim Lyman’s”.

The Lymans were well-known for taking good care of the Market House and Jim, the elder, was particularly fastidious about who touched what, especially the coal fire.

He never allowed anyone to go near the fireplace, and the story goes that one night while he was at the cinema, it was announced on the screen that he was urgently needed back at the pub.

He rushed home only to discover when he got there that the emergency was nothing more than that the fire needed poking. Nobody had dared touch it.

Jim Lyman was well-known both as a sportsman and a licensee, and in addition to being landlord of the Market House, was also landlord of the Woodman Inn, Batley Carr, for some years.

He lived in Bywell Road until his death in 1969 at the age of 72, but he is still remembered by many old regulars.

Jim joined the Dewsbury club in 1920, shortly after his brother Joe had signed for them, and played regularly there until 1928.

He was playing with them when they won Yorkshire Cup medals in 1925 and 1927 and was also a member of the Dewsbury team which defeated the Australian touring side in 1921.

He played full-back in that memorable game, and although this was always his best position, for he had a powerful kick and a devastating tackle, he also played at centre and on the wing.

But he didn’t play in the first final at Wembley as his brother Joe had, because by then he had transferred to Batley where he played for a short time and also acted as coach.

The Lyman’s great pride in the pub was rewarded by its designation by Tetley’s as a Heritage Inn to recognise its historical significance, and a blue plaque was unveiled.

Derek Windmill took over the pub from Jim Lyman and ran it for two years when it was taken over by Neil Fehey, who had earlier run the Eightlands Well, and later the Alma Inn, Thornhill.

Neil’s father, the late Paul Fahey, took over from Neil, and ran it for another eight years.

The Market House was always known for its good beer, especially Tetley Mild, and I am indebted to CAMRA – the Campaign for Real Ale – for supplying some of the historical details for this article.