Best house in Bridlington with a grade two star for splendour
Architect Francis Johnson adored its fabulous features. Now The Toft is set to reel in buyers. Sharon Dale reports from the coast.
DAY trippers and tourists who flock to its glorious sandy beaches may not realise that Bridlington has another jewel in its crown.
A mile back from the sands is the historic Old Town, which bills itself as “the other side to the seaside”. A charming mix of 17th and 18th century properties overlooked by a beautiful Augustinian priory, it is an historic oasis surrounded by a sea of architecturally unambitious semis and bungalows.
Penelope Weston and her late husband, the Rt Rev Frank Weston, former Bishop of Knaresborough, were captivated by the conservation area when they went to view what architectural historian and author David Neave describes as “one of the best historic houses in the East Riding” and certainly the best in Brid.
“It is a fantastic house with the most incredible features,” says Penelope, who bought The Toft in 2001.
The eminent architect Francis Johnson thought so too. He persuaded his parents to buy it in the 1930s after being bowled over by its classical beauty.
Commissioned in 1673 by wealthy merchant William Hudson, it was designed to flaunt his status and boasted a cupola to the south elevation so he could keep an eye on his ships at the Quay.
The property was remodelled around 1840 and a third storey added, but the interior was of such quality that it remained largely untouched. A grade two star listing in 1951 has ensured its preservation and it is breathtaking with intricate pediments and plaster friezes, decorated architraves, cornices and ceilings. The hall is a visual feast in Georgian red, the timber framed dining room is dominated by a Doric framed chimney piece, while the first floor drawing room is the most grand with moulded panelling and an ornate, carved fireplace.
“We were looking for somewhere to retire to as my husband was due to finish work in 2003 and we hadn’t even thought of living in Bridlington, but we saw this in the paper and thought we’d have a look and that was it .It needed a lot of work but we thought it would be an interesting project,” says Penelope.
The couple spent two years travelling back and forth from their home in Leeds overseeing a painstaking modernisation.
The property was tired and, although it had survived centuries of fads and trends with its lavish interior largely untouched, it had never been centrally heated. So the first task was to carefully install radiators without compromising the integrity of the rooms.
“The chap who had it before us used this as a holiday home, so he wasn’t bothered about central heating.
“We were and the conservation officer agreed we could have it if we were careful and didn’t put radiators in every room,” says Penelope, who was thrilled by some exciting discoveries , including original Victorian floor tiles hidden beneath dull grey ones in the kitchen and Francis Johnson’s initials etched into a pane of glass in one of the topfloor rooms.
Helped by her daughter, she also tackled the neglected lawns and borders and set out to revive the 150-year-old knot garden.
With the renovation finally complete, the couple celebrated their Ruby wedding anniversary at the house just weeks before they were due to move there full-time. Then tragedy struck and the Bishop suffered a brain haemorrhage and died.
The Toft in Bridlington’s Old Town conservation area was built for a wealthy merchant in 1673 and the frontage remodelled by the Georgians some 170 years later. The classically beautiful property is full of period features, including a striking hallway, detailed plasterwork and a first-floor drawing room complete with ornate, carved fireplace.
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