Modernising historic 'Brontë house' will ruin it, says critic
Historians say plans to upgrade a historic hall linked to the Brontës will “tarnish the purity” of the building.
Gomersal’s Red House, formerly a museum, is to get a new lease of life as a short-term holiday destination and intimate wedding venue.
Kirklees Council says the scheme will safeguard the site for the future. But opposition is growing to scheme from historians who believe “comprehensive refurbishment and some sympathetic remodelling” earmarked for the house could mean intrusive modern additions.
They are now marshalling support to fight what they suspect will be unwelcome improvements.
And they have threatened to mount a legal challenge.
“The battle is on,” said Mirfield-based Imelda Marsden a long-time member of the Brontë Society who has raised concerns with fellow social historians and aficionados.
“There’s loads that could be done with Red House – and it’s not just about the Brontës. There are links to the feminist and author Mary Taylor.
“We have seen plans that appear to show that bathrooms will be put in upstairs bedrooms.
“That’s utterly ridiculous. It will tarnish the purity of the building.
“People are annoyed, absolutely upset, and devastated. How dare they do this?”
However local supporters such as Coun David Hall (Con, Liversedge and Gomersal) say attracting tourists could make it financially sustainable and “trigger a wider tourism boost”.
Mrs Marsden, 74, said Brontë buffs all around the world are now coming together and preparing to give voice to their concerns.
She described them as the “geriatric luddite gang” and said: “This is serious. We will fight like crazy. It might go to a legal challenge.
“We luddites will not be fighting this time with hatchets and guns but with our voices, letters and emails.”
She rejected the council’s opinion that turning the site over to commercial use was “ground-breaking” and countered that the National Trust has been operating such a system for years.
Instead she called on the authority to exercise more thought.
The council announced in April that the Grade II* listed 19th century manor house is to become a five-star high-end luxury holiday home for commercial holiday letting, accommodating 10 people within five bedrooms to be let as a single holiday cottage unit.
The site’s cart shed will be remodelled and refitted to provide four individual self-contained holiday apartments, each accommodating two people, available to book either individually or in addition to the main house.
Mrs Marsden said: “They think they have done something new, but they haven’t.
“The National Trust have opened up buildings as holiday lets to raise money.
“We are not against the cart shed making money but there’s no way they can do that with Red House – to start putting in bathrooms. It will lose all its period appeal.”
Coun Hall and his ward colleague Coun Lisa Holmes said: “The people that I have spoken to locally have all been in favour of the investment in the house to secure its future.
“What we are wanting to do is sympathetically remodel the house so that tourists and holidaymakers will want to come and spend time there.
“In doing so we can upgrade the house for the use of the public as well.
“It’s a win-win situation.”