Farm­house time ma­chine takes cou­ple back to the 14th cen­tury

Me­dieval se­crets were dis­cov­ered when this farm­house was ren­o­vated. Heather Dixon re­ports. Pic­tures by David Bur­ton

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

THE warn­ing in the sales brochure said it all: “En­ter at your own risk”, and when Brid­get and David Reed took their first “tour” of their Grade II listed for­mer farm­house near Hud­der­s­field, they cer­tainly took their life into their own hands.

The floor in the en­trance hall had caved into the cel­lar leav­ing a gap­ing hole; one of the walls was on the verge of col­lapse, there was a huge hole in the roof and the bath­room could only be reached by ne­go­ti­at­ing a pre­car­i­ous plank across a hole in the first floor.

It wasn’t ex­actly what Brid­get had had in mind when they de­cided to move house, but David was de­lighted by the prospect of giv­ing the di­lap­i­dated farm­house a new lease of life and they were both en­chanted by its beau­ti­ful ru­ral set­ting. What nei­ther of them bar­gained for was the fact that the house was orig­i­nally a 14th cen­tury me­dieval aisled hall, and that it con­tained its own stun­ning ar­chi­tec­tural se­crets.

“We thought it was tremen­dously ex­cit­ing but ter­ri­fy­ing,” he said. “The scale of the task ahead didn’t bother us. Al­though we had never done any­thing on this scale be­fore, we put our faith in the ar­chi­tect and builder – and they didn’t let us down.”

It wasn’t the first time Brid­get and David, who are re­tired, had con­sid­ered buy­ing the farm­house. Fif­teen years ear­lier they were in­vited by close friends to take it on as a joint pro­ject, cre­at­ing two homes from the one prop­erty. “At the time we thought they must be mad. It had been empty for years and ev­ery­thing was over­grown,” said Brid­get. “We just didn’t have the vi­sion.”

Their friends went on to self­build while Brid­get and David started look­ing for some­thing a bit more con­ven­tional.

“We found a bun­ga­low we liked and were on the verge of buy­ing it when we de­cided to have an­other look at the farm­house, which had come back on the mar­ket,” said David. “I asked the ar­chi­tect to view both and give us his opin­ion. He said there was no con­test, that it was a ‘no brainer’ to ren­o­vate this one.”

The prop­erty was sold with plan­ning per­mis­sion to turn the ad­join­ing 18th cen­tury barn into a four bed­room house, but Brid­get and David later agreed that they would rather sta­bilise the barn and use it ini­tially for stor­age, but even­tu­ally as an ex­ten­sion of the house. To achieve this they had to reap­ply for plan­ning per­mis­sion, fol­lowed by months of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­fore ap­proval.

Ev­ery­thing then seemed straight for­ward un­til the builder be­gan to re­move the crum­bling plas­ter, floors and roof slates, leav­ing four bare walls and the rafters. It quickly be­came ap­par­ent that there was much more to the old stone build­ing than they re­alised.

“When the ceil­ings came down we dis­cov­ered the long beam run­ning through the mid­dle of the house,’ said David.

“We knew it was sig­nif­i­cant. The builder thought it was around 300 years old but the con­ser­va­tion depart­ment said the house was a for­mer 14th cen­tury me­dieval aisled hall with a so­lar in the place now oc­cu­pied by the barn.”

They also un­cov­ered the beau­ti­ful tim­ber frame which had been cov­ered up over the years.

“It was re­ally ex­cit­ing,’ said Brid­get. “We had no idea that we had bought some­thing so old and with so much his­tory. We thought we would have a few pretty farm­house beams and ended up with some­thing quite amaz­ing. The con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer was in­cred­i­bly help­ful. They could have listed the house on the spot, which would have been in­cred­i­bly restric­tive, but once they re­alised we weren’t go­ing to dam­age the tim­bers they were happy to list the prop­erty while the work was go­ing ahead.”

The dis­cov­ery of the beau­ti­ful oak frame shaped the de­vel­op­ment of the build as the team worked hard to re­tain and restore as many of the orig­i­nal ma­te­ri­als as pos­si­ble. One of the main walls was so un­safe it had to be taken down stone-by-stone and re­built.

The build­ing had no foun­da­tions so the con­crete floors had to be re­in­forced with steel and the walls tied into the floor, be­fore the orig­i­nal York­shire stone flags could be re-laid.

A smaller se­cret stair­case to­wards the back of the house was re­moved, much to Brid­get’s cha­grin, to cre­ate more space in the sit­ting room, and par­ti­tions in the main hall which had once been used as a dairy, were re­moved to cre­ate one large open space.

By the time Brid­get and David sold their pre­vi­ous house most of the struc­tural work had been done and they moved into the house, camp­ing out in just one room, while a fur­ther three months of in­ter­nal work were com­pleted.

The house is sim­ply but ef­fec­tively fur­nished with a mix­ture of an­tiques and mod­ern fit­tings which com­ple­ment the prop­erty.

They later de­cided to add a break­fast/sun room to the side of the house to max­imise the fab­u­lous coun­try­side views, choos­ing an oak frame to con­tinue the theme of their home. Be­cause the farm­house was listed this was linked to it via a glass cor­ri­dor.

Al­though the ren­o­va­tion took longer than an­tic­i­pated and went over bud­get, Brid­get and David are de­lighted with the re­sults.

“The whole pro­ject was a won­der­ful ad­ven­ture,” says David.

Builders, D&HCon­struc­tion, tel: 01484 537826; Gra­ham Booth, tel: 01484 606380.

DIS­COV­ERY: The 14th cen­tury me­dieval hall and ad­join­ing barn has been con­verted into a fam­ily home us­ing re­claimed ma­te­ri­als. Ev­ery groove, carved let­ter, roof joint and im­per­fec­tion in the an­cient beams has been ex­posed to re­veal the build­ing’s age and char­ac­ter. The oak frame had been cov­ered up for many years and it shaped the de­vel­op­ment of the build process.

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