Gothic-style house that cocks a snook at min­i­mal­ism and greige

This semi-de­tached house hides a bold, gothic in­te­rior. Sheena Hast­ings re­ports. Pic­tures by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

WHEN the in­te­rior of a house be­lies its ex­te­rior it’s more of­ten than not be­cause, be­hind an el­derly fa­cade, you find an orgy of stark ur­ban chic. Ex­ten­sive older pe­riod style be­hind a more mod­ern mask is much more rare – but that’s what Deb­bie and Stephen Bar­r­a­clough set out to cre­ate.

Those Vic­to­ri­ans knew how to do things on a grand scale, and they ex­per­i­mented with ev­ery­thing from steam com­bus­tion and new-fan­gled do­mes­tic ap­pli­ances to mu­si­cal in­stru­ments. Their taste in in­te­rior de­sign tended to the dark and gothic – deep stained oak and leather, rich reds, or­nate sil­ver and pewter, heav­ily carved wood and or­na­ments im­ported from the far-reach­ing em­pire.

Find­ing this sort of in­te­rior in­side an out­wardly neat and un­re­mark­able 1920s semi in north Leeds is quite a shock to the senses, and the Bar­r­a­cloughs seem to en­joy gaug­ing new­com­ers’ re­ac­tion to the home they share with their eight-yearold son and 13-year-old daugh­ter.

The Tardis-like four-bed­room house is chock full of dif­fer­ent 19th cen­tury trends in fur­nish­ing and dec­o­ra­tion. It’s a cu­rios­ity shop of para­pher­na­lia that could eas­ily dress a Dick­en­sian stage set.

There’s more taxi­dermy than you can shake a stick at; no less than 10 har­mo­ni­ums (al­though no-one here plays them); heav­ily or­nate crim­son drapes, dark red walls and ton­ing Queen Anne-style leather ch­ester­fields; gar­goyles; heavy carved chairs; many wind-up or pen­du­lum clocks (all keep­ing slightly dif­fer­ent time), and oak pan­elling in­stalled by Stephen then sanded and stained by Deb­bie.

When Stephen bought the house with a big mort­gage in 1984 it cost £15,000 and was a study in white-painted anaglypta. De­spite hav­ing grown up and lived for many years in his par­ents’ mod­ern house in this same road, the 53-year-old fac­tory man­ager says he al­ways felt he was “born in the wrong age”.

“I loved older things, and vis­it­ing old places like Foun­tains Abbey. When my par­ents saw what we were do­ing to this house they couldn’t un­der­stand it, but older things were re­ally made to last and have char­ac­ter.”

When Stephen got to­gether with Deb­bie a few years later, he found a kin­dred spirit in plun­der­ing car boot sales, auc­tions and eBay for Vic­to­rian items of fur­ni­ture and dec­o­ra­tion that would com­ple­ment Stephen’s bur­geon­ing col­lec­tion of taxi­dermy and grow­ing fix­a­tion with what he calls “sav­ing things that many other peo­ple don’t want to save”

De­spite work­ing long hours, Deb­bie says Stephen puts in many more keep­ing on top of what’s sell­ing online, and a day out at the coast will usu­ally in­clude a mooch around auc­tion houses and an­tique shops.

Re­cent ac­qui­si­tions in­clude Vic­to­rian bell pushes to sum­mon the ser­vants, which have beenin­stalled in sev­eral rooms. The porch has a proper old bell pull. Stephen made the skirt­ing in the re­cep­tion rooms the right height ac­cord­ing to Vic­to­rian in­te­ri­ors re­search. He says they of­ten buy some­thing then worry about where to put it later, but they did get to the point where the arte­facts and Deb­bie’s col­lec­tions of sil­ver and pewter­ware plus her teddy bears (both stuffed and 4,500 ce­ramic ver­sions) needed more space.

The an­swer was to build an ex­ten­sion on the back of the house where cus­tom-made cab­i­nets could be fit­ted. This sec­ond sit­ting room is built around a black wrought iron spi­ral stair­case that goes down foxes? In all there are 80 stuffed an­i­mals.

“No, not at all. It’s a very com­fort­able house, and they are like friends, re­ally,” says Deb­bie.

Stephen, who has paid any­thing from £15 for a stuffed squir­rel to £500-£600 for a fox, says he loves an­i­mals and see­ing taxi­dermy around them has helped to ed­u­cate the chil­dren about crea­tures they might never oth­er­wise see close-up.

The Bar­r­a­cloughs fancy a change from Leeds – so they’re sell­ing up and mov­ing to a half-con­verted for­mer church in Tod­mor­den that is nearly two cen­turies old.

Stephen and helpers are busy com­plet­ing the con­ver­sion, and he has his eye on yet more trea­sure. Once set­tled in their new home, their gothic taste can spread out and flour­ish – and their do­main will in­clude a grave­yard of 900 souls, many of them Vic­to­rian.

Deb­bie and Stephen Bar­r­a­clough have spent years trans­form­ing their semi-de­tached home in Round­hay, Leeds, into a study of Vic­to­rian gothic splen­dour. The pe­riod de­tails have been care­fully re­searched and a huge col­lec­tion amassed. The fam­ily’s next project will be a two hun­dred year-old con­verted church in Tod­mor­den.

The fur­nish­ings in­clude a large col­lec­tion of taxi­dermy and ten har­mo­ni­ums. The dou­ble bed­room in the loft fea­tures or­gan pipes be­hind the bed head.

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