Al­to­gether kooky: the Gothic semi with its very own tower

Mun­sters-style Mean­wood Tow­ers has a Gothic ex­te­rior that hides a beau­ti­fully re­stored des res – as Sharon Dale re­ports

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

VIC­TO­RIAN textile ma­chin­ery mag­nate Thomas Kennedy would no doubt be hor­ri­fied by the mod­ern day nick­name for Mean­wood Tow­ers.

The fash­ion­able man­sion he cre­ated in 1863, with in­put from the fa­mous Pu­gin fam­ily of ar­chi­tects, is now known locally as The Mun­sters House thanks to its out­ra­geously Gothic ar­chi­tec­ture.

It is kooky and that, along with the prom­ise of her very own tower, is why Liz Ben­field fell in love with num­ber 12, The An­nexe, one of two free­hold semis made from a wing of the “big house”.

She and hus­band Chris moved in 12 years ago af­ter re­lo­cat­ing from Manch­ester so she could take a job as head of a Leeds pri­mary school. Al­though they could’ve played safe with a bog stan­dard home in a more up­mar­ket sub­urb, they spot­ted the po­ten­tial of both the prop­erty and the area.

They have since been fol­lowed to Mean­wood by Waitrose, a su­per­mar­ket renowned for open­ing in up and com­ing lo­ca­tions.

Liz says: “When we moved in, Mean­wood was still re­garded as a bit down-at-heel in com­par­i­son with Head­in­g­ley on one side and Moor­town, Chapel Aller­ton and Round­hay on the other. But there has al­ways been some fine old hous­ing as well as a lot of nice quiet sub­ur­bia and mod­est pros­per­ity. Waitrose only recog­nised what was al­ready hap­pen­ing. We think we’re in a per­fect lo­ca­tion. If this was Head­in­g­ley or Round­hay, our house would be worth half a mil­lion.”

The An­nexe is for sale for £330,000 and it’s now a des re thanks to a re­fur­bish­ment that cost well over £100,000.

When the Ben­fields bought it, it had been empty for over a year. The gar­den was a sea of mud and many of the orig­i­nal fea­tures inside had been pan­elled over with ply­wood.

The first job was to rip out the par­ti­tions and false ceil­ing which had turned the Glas­ton­bury-style tower into a poky bath­room and kitchen.

“It was a bit of an act of faith,” says Liz. “But it paid off. The tower is lined with Cana­dian red­wood and it was all al­most in­tact, af­ter 150 years. There were some cuts in the stone but­tresses for the up­per tower, where the false ceil­ing had been cut in, but oth­er­wise the whole struc­ture was still there, in­clud­ing the rose­headed riv­ets which mark it as a Pu­gin pro­duc­tion.”

A new glass ceil­ing al­lows views up into the tower from the oc­tag­o­nal space un­der­neath, which is now a light-filled kitchen-diner. An old junk room was turned into a bath­room.

“We re­plas­tered and rewired but didn’t change the shape of any­thing in the tower. The glass ceil­ing was a great piece of work, by a joiner called Steve Car­roll, from Keigh­ley, who cut and cham­fered the frame to echo the orig­i­nal con­struc­tion and made it strong enough to stand on if any main­te­nance is re­quired. One of the glass panes is a hatch you can climb up through,” says Liz, who had un­der­floor heat­ing in­stalled so space wasn’t eaten up by ra­di­a­tors.

Heat­ing was the main con­sid­er­a­tion in the liv­ing room. The orig­i­nal fire­place flue didn’t meet safety stan­dards, so Liz and Chris, a for­mer York­shire Post jour­nal­ist, in­vested in big or­na­men­tal ra­di­a­tors, from Fea­ture Ra­di­a­tors of Bin­g­ley.

“The main one cost some­thing like a grand even 12 years ago,” says Liz. “But it re­ally pumps it out when you need it and it’s solid enough to dou­ble as a seat when we want a quick warm-up.”

Con­sid­er­ing the height of the rooms, they are cosy thanks to the two feet thick walls and warmth from a boiler in the cel­lar be­neath. The base­ment is a boon in all sorts of ways. It is enor­mous and in­cludes a laun­dry, work room, stor­age space and a place where Chris can keep his old hi-fi stack and record col­lec­tion.

More space was cre­ated with an ex­ten­sion to re­place an old glasshouse on the side of the build­ing. Plan­ners ap­proved a re­build on the same foot­print but ris­ing higher to link via a stair­way into the grade two listed house.

“We had to match the stone of the ex­ist­ing prop­erty and we had to have win­dow sur­rounds and cop­ing stones and gut­ters cut to fit the ver­nac­u­lar of the 1860s. For­tu­nately we found a great builder, Stef Maggi at AE3 in Round­hay, who en­joyed solv­ing prob­lems,” says Liz.

Even with the ex­ten­sion, The An­nexe at 12 Mean­wood Tow­ers has to be billed as just a two-bed­room prop­erty. The room in the ex­ten­sion can­not be de­scribed as a sep­a­rate bed­room un­der prop­erty de­scrip­tion law.

“Peo­ple can make up their own minds when they see it, but we thought it was a bit stingy to have to call this a two-bed­room semi,” says Liz. “If you add the ex­tra room, and the cel­lars, it is much more than that. And that’s not to men­tion the shep­herd’s hut.”

The hut, in the gar­den, is an op­tional ex­tra to the house sale and is ac­tu­ally a pur­pose-built out­door room with heat, light, a desk and a spare bed. It cost £13,500 from Kevin Lor­dan of the York­shire Hut Com­pany - www. they­ork­shire­hut­com­

Liz and Chris, who have re­tired and are mov­ing to Devon, have the op­tion of tak­ing it with them.

“I ab­so­lutely love it,” ays Liz. “Kevin says he can get it moved to Devon but it fits so nicely where it is, the buyer might well want to take it over.”

The An­nexe, Mean­wood Tow­ers, Mean­wood, Leeds, is £330,000 and is for sale through Alan Cooke, www. alan­cooke., tel: 0113 289 9669.

CHAR­AC­TER­FUL: The An­nexe at Mean­wood Tow­ers has been treated to a clever ren­o­va­tion and now boasts all mod cons along with stun­ning fea­tures in­clud­ing a kitchen diner housed in the orig­i­nal Vic­to­rian tower. There is also a shep­herd’s hut in the gar­den.

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