Re­turn jour­ney to the Fifties and a mid-cen­tury mod­ern mas­ter­piece

Farn­ley Hey is for sale for the first time in more than 50 years, giv­ing one lucky buyer the chance to own a per­fectly pre­served de­sign Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

WHEN dar­ing young ar­chi­tect Peter Womer­s­ley was awarded a RIBA bronze medal for Farn­ley Hey in 1957, he couldn’t have dreamed that it would sur­vive into the 21st cen­tury vir­tu­ally un­al­tered.

It was one of the first post war build­ings to be listed by English Her­itage in 1987, but for the first 30 years, this magnificent ex­am­ple of mid–cen­tury mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture lay un­pro­tected and ex­posed to chang­ing trends and fash­ion whims.

That it re­mains a fab­u­lous Fifties build­ing both in­side and out, from its flat roof to its Formica cup­boards, is down to the as­tute and some­times ec­cen­tric York­shire­man Joe Bat­tye and his wife Jean.

The house, in Farn­ley Tyas, in­flu­enced by the work of Amer­i­can ar­chi­tect Frank Lloyd Wright and his Swiss coun­ter­part Le Cor­bus­ier, was de­signed by Peter Womer­s­ley as a wed­ding present for his brother John. It was con­structed by an­other pi­o­neer of mod­ern de­sign Peter Stead, of Hud­der­s­field con­struc­tion com­pany Law Stead.

Com­pleted in 1956, Farn­ley Hey was on the mar­ket three years later and, such was the in­ter­est in a prop­erty more Cal­i­for­nia than Kirklees, es­tate agents charged £2 for a copy of the par­tic­u­lars – the equiv­a­lent of £30 to­day – to dis­suade time wasters.

“My fa­ther saw an ad­ver­tise­ment for it and rang my mother who was a teacher. He in­sisted she leave school and meet him at lunch time so they could view the house im­me­di­ately,” says Robert Bat­tye, who in­her­ited the house from his fa­ther nine months ago. “She thought it would be like liv­ing in a gold­fish bowl, but he loved it. He liked mod­ern de­sign.”

A man ahead of his time and a lover of the lat­est gad­gets, Joe Bat­tye recog­nised what was and still is a won­der­ful home.

The nat­u­ral light from the enor­mous pic­ture win­dows, the open plan lay out, which is clev­erly or­ches­trated on dif­fer­ent lev­els to cre­ate dis­tinct zones, and the spec­tac­u­lar views down a wooded val­ley and across the Pen­nines give the prop­erty its “wow” fac­tor.

“Both my par­ents loved it and said the only way they would leave was to be car­ried out in a box and that’s pretty much what hap­pened,” says Robert.

Joe and Jean em­braced the mid-cen­tury mod­ern con­cept and set about col­lect­ing fur­ni­ture that would per­fectly suit. The Fifties de­sign clas­sics, in­clud­ing a Dan­ish din­ing suite, orig­i­nal Arne Ja­cob­sen chairs, formica wardrobes in the bed­rooms and tex­tured formica kitchen units, are still there as most of Womer­s­ley’s fea­tures and fin­ishes such as the orig­i­nal York stone flagged floors, can­tilevered mez­za­nine gallery and built-in unit hous­ing a Grundig wire­less be­hind a leatherette door.

The ex­te­rior has been ren­o­vated over the years and given a new flat roof and new glaz­ing, but the steel frame, stone and wood cladding and the opaque yel­low glass are all in­tact.

Joe and Jean re­fused to be swayed by the chang­ing face of home fash­ion through five decades and only made only a few changes to the Womer­s­ley orig­i­nal, en­clos­ing an ex­ter­nal bal­cony off the mez­za­nine floor to cre­ate an­other floor-to­ceil­ing win­dow, re­mark­ing that it was like “hav­ing a con­stantly chang­ing pic­ture”. Joe also swapped the oil heat­ing for an in­no­va­tive con­vected heat sys­tem. “He was very in­ter­ested in new tech­nol­ogy and de­signed the heat­ing sys­tem him­self. It’s very clever and has steel tanks full of wa­ter that is heated overnight us­ing cheaper elec­tric­ity,” says Robert.

A great in­ven­tor, who had his own en­gi­neer­ing firms, Joe also in­stalled a drive­way that could be heated to melt ice and snow. Be­fore the idea be­came main­stream, he had a TV hid­den in a cabi­net topped with a taste­ful bronze statue. At the press of a but­ton, the telly rises and falls. Back in 1963, he in­stalled one of the UK’s first mi­crowave ovens from Har­rods. It took two men to lift it. And the Bat­tyes were among the first to have an in­duc­tion hob and Quooker in­stant hot wa­ter tap.

The house also boasts an early au­to­mated home sys­tem by PACE with pro­grams to con­trol the heat­ing, out­door light­ing and the open­ing and clos­ing of doors and the cur­tains, made from heat re­flec­tive fab­ric de­vised by NASA. Joe was the mas­ter con­troller and loved to re­lax on the mez­za­nine in his Eames chair – his sec­ond, as he wore the orig­i­nal one out.

“He en­joyed in­vent­ing. He de­vised a ra­dio-con­trolled wa­ter­ing sys­tem for his or­chids, though I have taken that out,” says Robert, who has lived at Farn­ley Hey while car­ry­ing out some ren­o­va­tion.

He and his wife are now sell­ing so they can live-full-time in their home in York, close to their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

“I hope the house goes to some­one who en­joys it as much

GET THE PARTY STARTED: The area known as the “dance­floor”, with the orig­i­nal wood pan­elled ceil­ing and au­dio unit. The silk lamp­shades are 1950s orig­i­nals .

The ex­te­rior with wood pan­elling and opaque yel­low glass; the study area with a 1950s desk, now a de­sign clas­sic; the ex­te­rior of the house which is now grade two listed.

UP­WARDLY MO­BILE: The orig­i­nal stairs with formica panel, lead to a can­tilevered mez­za­nine level and the first floor.

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