Who will write next chapter in long history of city’s oldest home?
Newlaithes Manor is thought to be the oldest home in Leeds with features spanning eight centuries. Sharon Dale reports.
HISTORIC properties are laden with atmosphere but the hangover from the past can be cold and creepy, hinting at things that go bump in the night.
At Newlaithes Manor in Horsforth, said to be the oldest home in Leeds, the feeling is wonderfully warm and friendly.
“People often ask if there’s a ghost but there isn’t,” says owner Ann Chadwick, who certainly wouldn’t have stayed there for 35 years if there was. She and her husband Peter bought the property in 1977 after being seduced by its semi-rural location and an incredible array of features that span 800 years.
The history of the property is something of an enigma, but Newlaithes means “new barn” and it is thought the house was one of the several tithe barns constructed by the monks of nearby Kirkstall Abbey.
It is built mainly of stone and most of it dates to the early 1400s, though there is evidence of an earlier incarnation that had mud and wattle walls and a thatched roof.
The house has survived architectural fashions and fads through the ages and entered the 21st century sufficiently unscathed. It still retains its mullion windows and the magnificent linen fold panelling featuring ecclesiastical crosses, which is thought to have come from the dissolution of Kirkstall Abbey during the Reformation.
The house also has working Georgian shutters, a Georgian china cabinet and an exceptional Tudor open fireplace that dominates the dining room.
Historians have noted the stone cushions on the ground floor carrying the crook beams and it is this kind of architectural heritage, so beautifully preserved, that warrants a mention in the current edition of Pevsner.
David Phillip, director at Dacre, Son & Hartley, which is marketing the property for £795,000, is also impressed. He says: “Newlaithes Manor has survived unscathed, although altered, through eight centuries of social changes spanning the reigns of over thirty monarchs and it is an excellent example of the evolution of domestic architecture in this country.
“Internally the house possesses a most interesting internal layout, with probably its most impressive features being the extensive timber panelling. Every knot and chisel mark of the beautiful panelled woodwork conceals a wealth of historic information and the lovely old stone walls reveal the mason’s chiselled mark on the ashlars.”
The Chadwicks have made the grade two listed property fit for modern living.
Over the years, they have reroofed, re-wired and re-plumbed the house and its adjoining cottages.
On the ground floor of the main house, there is a drawing room, a study, utility room, dining room and shower room. What was a reception room has been transformed into a large living kitchen. Upstairs, there is a galleried landing, four bedrooms and a bathroom.
There is a cottage at either side. One is connected to the house at both ground and first floor levels and has two bedrooms and the other is a self-contained one bedroom home, known as Manor Lodge, which can be used as an annexe or as a rental property.
Outside, there is a garage with remote controlled door and a storage area in the loft. The drive provides additional off street parking.
Keen gardeners will be attracted to Newlaithes, which has an outdoor toilet and adjacent potting shed alongside log and fuel stores.
The garden is south facing with a shaped lawn, stone flagged paths and terrace. There is a kitchen garden, timber summerhouse and lock-up shed.
While modernising both outside and inside was essential to make a practical family home, all the historic elements of the building and its surroundings have been carefully retained and still more uncovered.
“When we did the kitchen, the plaster started dropping off the walls and revealed beautiful stone ashlars with the original masons’ mark on them. We had them all sandblasted and they are beautiful,” says Ann Chadwick, who adds that some of original features have proved very useful.
The shutters, she says, are better than double glazing for keeping in the heat and they’re also burglar-proof.
The Chadwicks have enjoyed living amongst the rich history but they were keen to make the house a cosy family home rather than a museum, so the furniture and furnishings are a mix of the comfortable, inherited and much-loved.
One treasure that will be left for the next owner is a tiny leather shoe found hidden in the walls for good fortune, possibly in the 1800s, and it seems to have proved lucky for Ann and Peter
“It’s been a super home and a wonderful place to bring up children,” says Ann, who is selling to downsize to the country.
“We are right on the edge of the green belt and there are lovely walks down to the river from here but we are also very close to the city. In fact you can walk in along the river.”
She adds: “We will be really sad to leave as we have many happy memories but it is time to move on.
“Our children have grown up and it’s time for another family to live here.”
AFRAID OF NO GHOST: Newlaithes in Horsforth, Leeds, is thought to be one of the oldest homes in Leeds, but the owners have never had any ghostly experiences in 35 years and say it has a warm and friendly atmosphere despite its great age. It has period features spanning eight centuries, some of which are thought to originate from nearby Kirkstall Abbey.