Artist profile - Kate Lycett, Hebden Bridge
PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 February 2016
Ruined houses are a passion for a Yorkshire artist who can’t help but attempt to reveal their secrets
Kate Lycett is a Hebden Bridge-based artist who has taken on an ambitious project to rediscover a few of the former grand country homes of the South Pennines. ‘I’m painting a body of work in which I hope to recreate some of the lost houses of the South Pennines using plans, written accounts photographs and the sites themselves,’ said Kate. ‘I first had the idea for this project over six years ago after I learned about New Cragg Hall and then about Castle Carr. Both were grand mill owners’ houses that stood for a very short space of time. There was a vast amount of new money in my area of Yorkshire at the height of the industrial revolution. These crazy “brass castles” went up, and decayed when the textile industry went into decline. ‘Many were destroyed by fire, or were just pulled down in the 1940s and 1950s. There are some records, a few photos, and architectural plans hidden away in archives. I would love to paint some of them as they were, incorporating some of their history and uncovering the mysteries surrounding them. I want to show the houses in their original form, so they can be remembered and the people can re-tell their stories.
‘Ruins have always captured my imagination. The rise and fall of the textile industry in this area and fortunes that were made and lost with it mean that West Yorkshire has a huge number of derelict and ruined buildings and others which are now just memories.
‘I think it’s important to tell this story. Fifty years ago the buildings – not just houses, but industrial and civic buildings too – were considered too modern to be worth preserving. The wealth that built them was no longer there to maintain them. I think the clearance and demolitions are bitterly regretted now. That said, the buildings are only just within, or perhaps just one generation away, from living memory. I am doing this now because in 10 or 20 years time they may be completely forgotten. Really, this is all about reminding people what was there. Quite a few of these houses stood on what are now public parks. I love to tell my children about the beautiful houses that used to stand where they now play.’
Kate is only half way through the project and she is taking her time to research each house before she paints them. She is asking readers to help her discover information about the following houses: Manor Heath (Halifax), Harrowins (Queensbury, Littlemoor (Queensbury), Oakworth House (Oakworth), Norland Old Hall (Norland), Fallingroyd House (Hebden Bridge), Crow Nest (Halifax), Wycollar Hall (Wycollar, Lancashire), Horton Old Hall (Little Horton, Bradford), Hayfield (Glusburn, Keighley) and Centre Vale Manor (Todmorden).
Castle Carr, Luddenden Dean Ill fortune seemed to t befall anyone connected to Castle Carr. The castle was commissioned by Captain Joseph Priestly Edwards in 1859, though he and his eldest son died in a railway accident before it was completed. It took over 100 men eight years to build it. It was briefly inhabited by his youngest son before being sold on. The site of the castle was too isolated; it was damp and plagued by midges and disputes with locals over rights of way. It was never fully inhabited. Initially it was used as a hunting lodge; eventually the estate was sold for the water rights and the castle became derelict, being used for munitions storage during WW2. It was demolished in 1962. The castle was huge. Hollywood gothic in style and scale, it stood alone and incongruous on the moors. The castle surrounded a large courtyard which had at its centre a fountain guarded by four vast stone hounds. Hounds guarded the stairs and the fireplaces inside, and it was decorated with hunting trophies and hun
High Sunderland, Halifax High Sunderland was built towards the end of the 16th century for the Sunderland family. It was built high on the hills above Halifax. It is believed to be the house, though not the site, which inspired Wuthering Heights. Emily Bronte would have walked past it often when she was working nearby at Southowram School. Descriptions of the exterior with its ‘crumbling griffins and shameless little boys’ and the layout of the interior suggest that High Sunderland and Wuthering Heights were one and the same. The former even had a corresponding ghost story of a disembodied hand. The house was a fantastical mix of the secular and the sacred. Muscular, twisted, winged figures stood over the front door. Green men, griffins, lions, wicked faces decorated the crenellated frontage. Stained glass showed the planets and signs of the zodiac and walls, inside and out, were decorated with Latin inscriptions.
Manor Heath, Halifax As a family, we love to visit Manor Heath so Ive chosen this house for entirely selfish reasons. For me, Manor Heath is always sunny. Even when its cold, its bright. And the cafe sells nice coffee so I can keep my hands warm whilst manning the swings. Manor Heath is, I think, the most recently demolished of all the houses Im looking at. Many people have been in contact that have memories of it. It was a dark and spooky place they passed on their way to or from school. Strangely, there seems to be few photos of it. Perhaps, before it was demolished, it was a grim and un-photogenic place. The few photos I have found of, show it blackened and gothic.
New Cragg Hall, Cragg Vale New Cragg Hall was built in 1904, and stood for only 18 years before it burnt down in 1921. Though none would question the word of a gentleman, there was speculation at the time about the cause of the fire. William Algernon Simpson-Hinchliffe, the much younger widower of a wealthy heiress with a penchant for racehorses, certainly removed all the furniture before fire broke out. The house was largely Elizabethan inspired Arts and Crafts in style and there are bits and pieces of stonework stolen from the burnt out ruin dotted in gardens all across the valley. It has Rapunzel towers with beautiful stone work, buried in the tall hedges that surround the modern house built on the footprint of the old one.
Oakworth House, near Keighley Oakworth House was an Italianate villa that stood in Oakworth a village near Keighley, in the grounds of what is now known as Holden Park. The owner was Sir Isaac Holden, a wealthy industrialist who owned mills in both Bradford and in Croix, France. Holden had many theories on healthy living and diet. The grand house had a Turkish bath house. It also had a vast winter garden, and separate glass houses for orchids, figs, peaches, palms the list goes on. The grounds were developed with extensive walks so that he and his guests could take exercise. Three reservoirs were built to supply water to the hot houses; one of them was kept a large ornamental lake in the gardens. The houses had a complex heating and ventilation system which required two large furnaces; the decorative chimneys for these can be seen behind the house.
Kate’s first love is landscape painting and says Yorkshire is her muse. ‘It wasn’t until I moved to Hebden Bridge that I started to paint landscapes and the change was instant. Before moving here my work was abstract and full of patterns. It was colourful, but rarely figurative. I find the Yorkshire landscape incredibly inspiring.’ w
Contact Kate with any information and find out more about her work through her website katelycett.co.uk