One thing we're adjusting to is that there are quite a few people out there who know a lot more about our home than we do. It's a little bit strange......but only if we think about it too deeply.
In all honesty, we hadn't heard of Edgar Wood before we started house-hunting. However, we're coming to learn that he's very well-loved and respected around Manchester and West Yorkshire because of the beautiful buildings he contributed to the area and because he was a key character within the Arts and Crafts Movement in the north of England.
From the accounts I've read, I think I would have liked him. He had a reputation as a snappy dresser with a sense of theatre - regularly stepping out with a silver-topped cane wearing a cape lined in red silk and a wide-brimmed hat. It also seems to me that he struck a balance that many people in the creative world struggle with - he hung onto his artist's sensibilities whilst succeeding as a professional and a businessman.
One great advantage of Edgar's modern-day following is that we're now in contact with some lovely people who are keen to share their knowledge of his life and architecture with us. There are a committed group of 'Woodies' (not my term!) in Edgar's hometown of Middleton who are doing much to raise his profile and preserve key buildings with the help of heritage lottery funding: Middleton Edgar Wood Heritage Society
Meanwhile, on this side of the Pennines, The Yorkshire Edgar Wood Heritage Society comes together to share a passion for Edgar's work, to educate others in the local community about the architecture on their doorstep, and to advocate for the conservation of his buildings. So who better to invite over for a masterclass on the history of Briarcourt than the Chairs of the group - David and Jane Griffiths?
Armed with folders of research, Jane and David have trudged through the snow to get here. With a general tendency to worry about peoples' impressions of me, I have fantasised that they will be members of the 'clipboard brigade', inwardly or even worse, outwardly tutting at....well I'm not sure what, we haven't even done anything much to the house yet. However, I needn't have worried - they are warm and friendly. It becomes clear that they just care about their community and conserving the best of what we've inherited from our ancestors.
David and Jane know much of the building already, having helped to organise and host tours of the main rooms during Huddersfield's heritage open weekends. So it's great to walk around together sharing theories and questions about how the house might have originally looked. "Might there have been a serving hatch into the dining room?" "Oh....that had never occurred to me....but now you mention it....."
Keen to pay them back for venturing out in the wintry weather, I share one of our discoveries - a cubbyhole where you can see some of the original hallway panels and windows which became hidden when the main staircase was moved. Asking any other new acquaintances to crawl through cupboards would probably be a high risk social strategy, but David and Jane completely understand the historical significance of our little secret nook and don't bat an eyelid at the squeeze.
It really pleases me that Jane and David seem as interested in the social history of Briarcourt as its architectural pedigree; and along with sharing fascinating building plans and historic sales particulars they've found, they are able to pass on stories of how the house has featured in peoples' lives. When I ask them for a photograph for the blog, I suggest that they stand in front of their favourite feature. Jane chooses the bureau by the fireplace in the morning room:
"In the days when Briarcourt was a children's home, this is where matron kept the sweets!"