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.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

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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