Plan for luxury holiday lets at former Gomersal museum with Bronte links

Kirklees Council has published a proposal asking cabinet members to invest £600,000 at the former Red House Museum in Gomersal.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 12:35 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 12:36 pm
The former Red House Museum in Gomersal has links with the Brontes.
The former Red House Museum in Gomersal has links with the Brontes.

The money would be spent refurbishing the Grade II* listed house and neighbouring cart shed, so that both properties can be let as luxury short-term holiday accommodation.

Dating back to 1660, the house and grounds are an important heritage asset due to their association with local Luddite activities, the Taylor family, most notably Mary Taylor, a writer and early feminist.

They are however most revered by Bronte fans, as Charlotte was a regular guest at the house, and gave it a starring role as “Briarmains” in her novel “Shirley”.

Prior to its closure in 2016, Red House operated as a community museum, but visitor numbers and increasing costs made the site unviable.

The decision to allow the property to be marketed for private sale prompted a petition from Red House Heritage Group in 2019, which resulted in the council’s cabinet agreeing to explore alternative uses for the site which could maintain it in public hands.

This new approach proposes the house is refurbished to the highest standards in order to appeal to the luxury tourism market.

If agreed the house would accommodate 10 guests, with the added advantage that once the business is established, guests may also be able to get married in the house during their stay.

Meanwhile the cart shed would be split into four self-catering apartments, with broader appeal to both leisure and business travellers.

There are no proposals to include the barn in the commercial operation of the site, so that this could retained for community use.

The paper also proposes to suspend the commercial operation for a number of days and weekends each year, so that local people can still have access to the site to enjoy pre-planned community activities and events.

Speaking about the proposal, Colin Parr, Kirklees Council’s strategic director for environment and climate change, said: “The proposal detailed in the report will allow the council to retain the property in public ownership without incurring huge operating costs.

“We have looked at the example set by the National Trust and the Landmark Trust, who both renovate heritage buildings to let as holiday cottages as a way of sustaining them, and we are confident that this could be a business model that works for the council too.

“As well as its broad appeal, we think this scheme will benefit tourism to the area by attracting people who are interested in the Brontë connection to Red House, and the prospect of staying in a house where Charlotte frequently visited and wrote about.

“At the same time, we hope that the proposal will make it possible to offer managed community access to a site which we know is much-loved by local people.”

A spokesperson for the Red House Yorkshire Heritage Trust said: “We are aware that Kirklees Council has published their proposal to make a significant investment into the Red House site. Their vision is for both the main house and cart shed to be refurbished and re-opened as quality short-term holiday stays.

“Our group’s priority remains that this important heritage site is respected and protected in public or community hands.

“We recognise that for this to happen, there must be an appropriate, sympathetic and financially viable use for the site, so while we certainly welcome the investment, we remain open-minded about the council’s new approach.

“From conversations we have had with the council, we are pleased that they recognise that our views on the future of Red House are important.

“We have been assured that although this proposal does have a commercial focus, there is a commitment to ensuring our local community can also access the site over a number of open weekends and specially-curated events throughout the year which pay homage to its outstanding heritage credentials.

“The council have also assured us that as the barn will not be a part of the new commercial activity there could be scope for community and heritage activities to be based there in the future.

“We look forward to being consulted as the project progresses and to celebrating the heritage of the site and facilitating access for the benefit of the local and wider community.”