Imagine Huddersfield at the end of the 19th Century. The textile industry is booming, the West Riding mills are humming and in the Sykes family - owners of the Acre Mills on the outskirts of town, a wedding is in the offing. Herbert Higginson Sykes is to marry his sweetheart Annie Eliza Thompson.
It is John Sykes' responsibility not only to help his son step into his new role of family provider on the most stable footing, but it is important also to preserve the family's image as successful and powerful members of the local community. So to an appropriate wedding present.....
Just over an acre of land and the funds to build a brand new marital home.
Across the Pennines, Herbert's cousin has already turned down the prospect of a future running his family's cotton mill. Although he dreams of being an artist, the respectable compromise agreed is that he trains as an architect. Now 10 years into his career, Edgar Wood is the perfect choice of designer for the new house - Briarcourt.
Fast forward 119 years and 2 weeks from Herbert and Annie's wedding and we are moving in to make Briarcourt our new home. The mills have long-since ceased spinning and Acre Mills is being redeveloped as an NHS outpatient hub. In the intervening years, Edgar has become recognised as a leading light in the Arts and Crafts movement in the north and developed a considerable reputation across the UK and Europe for his progressive architectural designs.
Briarcourt has also witnessed many changes - having been bought by 'the corporation' in the 1940s, it has been home to looked-after children and older people in need of nursing care, a day centre for people with learning disabilities, and a work place for numerous health and social services professionals over the years. With changing times and needs, the building and grounds have also been required to adapt, and at this snapshot in time, beautiful grade II listed Arts and Crafts features from Herbert and Annie's original Victorian home sit side by side with the functional necessities of a public sector institution.
Lots of the windows leak - as do parts of the roof; the plaster is peeling from certain walls; the fire grates have been removed; and the garden is impressively overgrown. However, to us it's a really special place - the vehicle for an adventure, where we'll put our time and care into repairing the frayed edges and hope to learn a lot and meet interesting people along the way.
Welcome to our journey.....