Restor­ing his­toric char­ac­ter to house that dates from the 1600s

A love of his­toric property and ob­ses­sive at­ten­tion to de­tail have com­bined to give this house in­tegrity. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

IT’S con­sid­ered dar­ing and fash­ion­able to take his­toric prop­er­ties and give them a 21st century twist but there are still a few purists out there and Martin Fox is one of them.

Not for him glazed ex­ten­sions, min­i­mal­ist in­te­ri­ors and Philippe Starck fur­ni­ture. One of the most sat­is­fy­ing jobs when he bought The Old Court House in Wool­ley, was rip­ping out a se­ries of pre­vi­ous mod­erni­sa­tions.

The 1970s and 80s ad­di­tions, in­clud­ing fire­places, sus­pended ceil­ings, Artex, pic­ture rails and all the kitchen and bath­room fit­tings, went in the skip.

“I don’t know why any­one would want to put those things in a place like this?” says Martin, who bought the house five years ago af­ter be­ing cap­ti­vated by its char­ac­ter and the fact that it is the old­est home in the vil­lage.

It was built in 1642 as a farm­house, spent time as a lo­cal prison and boasts a tun­nel leading from the cel­lar to nearby Wool­ley Hall, a legacy from its English Civil War ori­gins.

Martin has spent a small for­tune and most of his spare time work­ing to re­store and re­in­state as many of its orig­i­nal fea­tures as pos­si­ble.

“I love old property. My last house was 1792 but it was brick and I’d al­ways wanted an old stone house. As soon as I saw this I knew I had to have it. I went up into the loft with a torch and I could see all the orig­i­nal wood­work hid­den un­der the sus­pended ceil­ings. That was a big thrill.”

The grade two listed house needed re-plumb­ing and rewiring, but Martin went much fur­ther than a stan­dard re­fur­bish­ment.

“I stripped the whole house back and started again. Not ev­ery­one would’ve both­ered to do that but I am a per­fec­tion­ist and so ev­ery­thing has to look right and be ap­pro­pri­ate for the age of the build­ing, other­wise I couldn’t live with it. It would an­noy me,” he says.

The old kitchen units were re­placed by Chalon cab­i­nets from the Lit­tle Lon­don Kitchen Com­pany in Rawdon and topped with white gran­ite, while the floors are Jerusalem stone from Knares­bor­ough’s Lapi­cida.

In the grand hall, the false ceil­ing was torn down along with mod­ern pine beams to re­veal the orig­i­nal oak beams and trusses. The re­sult is a mag­nif­i­cent dou­ble-height space that al­ways elic­its a “wow” from vis­i­tors.

In one sit­ting room, the orig­i­nal floor-to-ceil­ing fire­place had been cov­ered over and dam­aged so Martin recre­ated it with old stone. Pre­vi­ous oc­cu­pants had blocked up the 17th century front door­way, so in the in­ter­ests of his­tor­i­cal ac­cu­racy , he re­in­stated it and bought an au­then­tic stud door from a cas­tle in Scot­land.

It was a big out­lay and will gen­er­ate no re­turn, but it gives him im­mense plea­sure.

Mak­ing the property more en­ergy ef­fi­cient did make fi­nan­cial sense and while he has ex­posed some of the old stone, other walls have been heav­ily in­su­lated.

A joiner by trade, Martin, who owns Pre­cious Stone, a mar­ble and gran­ite specialist in Halifax, did much of the work him­self helped by his fa­ther, Alan.

“In the week, I would get up at 5am and work on the house for three hours till 8am and then I’d be back here at 5pm work­ing till 10pm. At weekend I’d work on it from 6am till 8pm. It took about two years to com­plete and it’s fair to say I was ob­sessed, but I en­joyed do­ing it,” he says .

Up­stairs, he opened the bed­room ceil­ings to the rafters and re­placed bath­room suites with pe­riod san­i­tary ware. One of his prize buys was a pol­ished cast iron bath from a lux­ury apart­ment in Paris, while the 1930s loo and cis­tern are by Jap­kap and to­gether make a mag­nif­i­cent “throne”. The ra­di­a­tors are as old as he could find – Vic­to­rian.

The fur­ni­ture is al­most all pe­riod. Martin and his fi­ancée Claire have scoured an­tique shops, sale­rooms and sal­vage yards all over Bri­tain.

The dresser came from Pe­riod Oak in Wales and is sim­ply dec­o­rated with a collection of old pewter plates and spoons. The din­ing ta­ble was from an old manor house, the desk from Bon­hams, the meat hook in the kitchen is from the Har­ro­gate Antiques Fair and the mir­rors are from the web­site, Dec­o­ra­tive Col­lec­tive. The so­fas are all Howard and Sons.

“We en­joy find­ing the right pieces and we’ve had to travel to find them,” says Claire, who has used silk flow­ers, from Wall to Wall In­te­ri­ors in York, and paint­ings to add colour.

The cou­ple are happy to sell their finds onto the next own­ers of the house, which is now up for sale for of­fers over £1m.

They are sell­ing reluc­tantly as they need a property with land for Claire, a for­mer dressage

It took about two years to com­plete and it’s fair to say I was ob­sessed but I en­joyed do­ing it.

cham­pion, who would like to ex­pand her eques­trian busi­ness.

“Leav­ing it will be hard af­ter all the ef­fort and time I have put into it, but I am very pleased to have put it back to how it should be,” says Martin.

“I hope who­ever buys it feels the same way about this build­ing as I do.”

Lit­tle Lon­don Kitchen Com­pany, Rawdon, www. lit­tlelon­don­hand­made.co.uk

Pe­riod Oak, Powys, www. pe­ri­odoak.co.uk

Dec­o­ra­tive Col­lec­tive antiques, www.dec­o­ra­tivecol­lec­tive.com

Pre­cious Stone, mar­ble and gran­ite, Halifax, www. pre­cious­stone.co.uk

Wall to Wall In­te­ri­ors, York, silk flow­ers, www.wall­towal­ly­ork. co.uk

York Fine Arts, paint­ings, www. york­fin­eart­son­line.co.uk

Fenwick and Fenwick, Broad­way, Worces­ter­shire, tel: 01386 853227

Keith Hockin Antiques, Chel­tenham, www.kei­th­hockin. com

Mir­field Re­claimed Stone and Slate, tel: 01924 495515.

The Old Court House in Wool­ley, near Wake­field, dates from 1642. Owner Martin Fox spent years re­mov­ing later mod­erni­sa­tions to re­store as many of the orig­i­nal fea­tures as pos­si­ble, in­clud­ing the beams and trusses in the dra­matic dou­ble-height grand hall, right. Martin and fi­ancée Claire have scoured an­tique shops and sal­vage yards to find fur­ni­ture to suit.

The kitchen fea­tures Chalon cab­i­nets from the Lit­tle Lon­don Kitchen Com­pany, topped with white gran­ite. Even the bath­rooms boast vin­tage fit­tings like the cast iron bath and 1930s loo and cis­tern.

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