It’s one of Huddersfield’s most historic houses and a new book now reveals that it was built with love very much at the forefront of its famous architect’s mind.
Briarcourt at Lindley was designed by Edgar Wood, recognised as one of the country’s finest Arts and Crafts architects – a style which rebelled against the growing industrialisation of the late 1800s and early 1900s, looking back to a style using traditional craftsmen skills.
The architectural style which developed from Arts and Crafts had at its heart five main principles – clarity of form or structure, variety of materials, asymmetry, traditional construction and craftsmanship. Buildings were constructed using local materials and traditions.
Edgar Wood’s most famous landmark building in Huddersfield is the art nouveau clock tower in Lindley, but the Manchester-born architect’s first building he designed here was Briarcourt.
This imposing house set in its own grounds on Occupation Road began as a family home and over time has been a used as a care home for vulnerable children, older people and young people with special needs.
The new book, Briarcourt – The Story of a House with a Heart, has been published by Huddersfield Local History Society for the Edgar Wood Heritage Group (Yorkshire) with the support of the present owners, celebrating both the art and architecture of the house while touching on the lives of its past residents.
Briarcourt’s story started in 1894 with the purchase of land next to St Stephen’s vicarage on Occupation Road by John Sykes, head of card clothing manufacturer Joseph Sykes and Brothers.
John invited his cousin, Edgar Wood, (1860-1935) to design a house as a wedding present for his son Herbert Higginson Sykes and his wife Annie Eliza and this was reflected in Wood’s design.
A heart can be seen above the front door and other symbols of love are used throughout the house, including the Briar Rose. Wood not only designed the house but supervised every aspect of its decoration.
Briarcourt is now a home again and is being lovingly restored by current owners Vicky House and Duncan Morgan.
Vicky says: ‘When Dunc and I moved to Briarcourt nearly eight years ago we had no inkling of how well-loved this building is within the local community and what a rich history she holds. To be honest, we really knew very little about Edgar Wood and his amazing talents either.
“We just fell in love with Briarcourt and knew we wanted to try our best to bring her a new lease of life after decades of institutional service and several years of lying empty had left their scars.”
The cost of building Briarcourt in around 1895 was in the region of £3,500 and in 1921 the house and grounds, which had both been significantly extended by then to include houses for servants and more than six acres of land, sold at auction for £7,425.
For Vicky, the publication of the book has been a very special moment.
She adds: “Slowly helping the building reclaim a little more of her original Arts and Crafts spirit is an absolute privilege but the gift of developing such an intimate sense of the people who have lived and worked here over the last 125 years is beyond anything we could have ever imagined.
“This book stands as a testament to the Edgar Wood Heritage Group, the Edgar Wood Society, and all those who have shared something of their personal relationship with this place’s generosity of spirit, passion for Edgar Wood and commitment to keeping our local heritage alive.”
The house’s gardens are now the base for community project Clem’s Garden.Many of its volunteers are people aged over 50 who don’t have children or grandchildren. That may be because they were unable to have children, didn’t have the opportunity, chose not to or have suffered the anguish of losing a child.
Vicky set the community interest company up after she lost her baby, Clem, in pregnancy in 2009.
The 30 volunteers grow flowers which they sell with the profits going to the One Community Foundation in Huddersfield which then gives grants to small charities and good causes.
Vicky added: “We planted beds of beautifully scented roses we could use in our Clem’s Garden bouquets as a modern-day nod to all the roses Edgar Wood weaved into the decor of the house.”
The Briarcourt book is illustrated with both historic and contemporary illustrations and also includes a detailed tour of the house.
Briarcourt – The Story of a House with a Heart (ISBN 978-0-9929841-4-4, 72 pages, £10) is published by Huddersfield Local History Society for the Edgar Wood Heritage Group (Yorkshire). It can be bought through the Huddersfield Local History Society’s website for £2.25 p&p (https://www.huddersfieldhistory.org.uk/publications/) and is also available in local bookshops.
For more about the Edgar Wood Heritage Group (Yorkshire) go to