A new chapter is set to be written in the life of a historic Leeds terrace that has inspired poets, writers and historians for more than a century.
One of the 18 homes that sits on Oakfield Terrace – nestling in a leafy conservation area on the fringes of Headingley – has been put on the market with North Leeds specialists Castlehill.
The sale marks the end of a ten-year romance with the Victorian stone terrace for owners Rob and Emma Kenyon whose inspiration for renovating the property was simple.
“We wanted the best of both worlds,” said Emma. “Our aim was lovingly to restore and retain the best of the original Victorian character, and combining these with the 21st century features you would expect in a luxury boutique hotel.”
The six-bedroomed property is for sale at £625,000 and is being marketed by independent Headingley estate agents, Castlehill.
Director Simon Ketteringham said: “Oakfield Terrace oozes charm and history. One of the most remarkable features is the length of time that its occupants stay there so this is a rare opportunity to live in a sought-after area of Leeds that is home to fascinating past – and an exciting future.
“While there have been many internal improvements carried out – and Rob and Emma’s restoration is among the best examples of this – the front of the terrace remains unchanged. It is as if all there was an implicit agreement among all the residents to respect the excellent taste of the original architects.”
The terrace is one of the first examples of cooperative activity in the housing field and acted as a forerunner to a raft of other similar schemes that later sprang up across other parts of the city.
It was June 1874 when locals formed the Oakfield Terrace Building Club “for the purpose of raising money by subscriptions, loans or otherwise for the purchase of a plot of land called Flush Close, situated at Mill Lane, Headingley, and building thereon 18 terrace family homes”.
By August, all 18 shares in the former Church of England-owned glebe land had been sold – a £25 deposit entitling each founding member to one house and accompanying gardens.
The terrace boasts the Italianate design stamp of its architect William Hill, who had previously worked in Cuthbert Broderick’s practice when it was tasked with creating Leeds Town Hall.
For the first decades of its life, the terrace stood alone. When Grove Lane was laid in front of it in 1921, the terrace has contrived to retain its rural character as well as, uniquely, two identities.
Every house has a different “front” address and a “back” address – a constant cause of head-scratching for new postmen and postwomen.
Another rare dimension is that the terrace is a “mirror image” – numbers 1 and 18 on opposite sides are exact replicas of each other; as are numbers 2 and 17; 3 and 16, 4 and 15, 5 and 14 and so on.
To commemorate its centenary in 1974, residents commissioned a history of the terrace and its array of occupants, including a Dr Adamson, one of the UK’s first women gynaecologists; Professor, later Sir Derman Christopherson, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University; and the London correspondent of the Russian news agency Tass.
Another resident of the terrace was Lucy Newlyn, now Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford University and author of a bestselling biography of William Wordsworth. Her childhood memories of growing up in “my house with two addresses” inspired her to publish a book of poems about it, called “Ginnel”.
|Two Addresses, by Lucy Newlyn
It never puzzled me as a child
that our house had two addresses.
The postman delivered to either side
And neighbours used both entrances.
At the front, on the Headingley side,
lay lawns and grey stone terraces.
Pavements were tidy, verges lined
with cherries and acacias
Privet hedges, neat and trimly styled,
had flower beds along their bases,
and children played in gardens filled
with honeysuckle, jasmine, roses.
At the back, on the Meanwood side,
Were narrow rows of red brick houses.
Washing hung looped between tiled
Roofs like ragged necklaces
Streets were cobbled, ginnels stiled,
Kids hung about in parking places.
Smog blackened, dustbins spilled,
And short-sleeved men in yards wore braces.
Rob said: “We can’t imagine a better place to live. We all know each other, and have get-togethers three or four times a year- often on the communal green.
“The Meanwood trail is 20 metres from the back door, so you can walk through historic woods to Golden Acre Park, or virtually into the city centre via the ginnels of Leeds that Alan Bennett made famous. And with such fantastic public transport and cycle routes, we sold our last car seven years ago.”
Emma added: “We thought we would live here for the next 10 to 20 years, so we’ve compromised on neither quality nor detail.
“Virtually everything is handmade or bespoke. Hardwood double-glazed sash windows, LED lighting, energy-efficient designer aluminium radiators, solid wood wardrobes, underfloor heating and hard-wired Ethernet are just some of the many features that we’ve incorporated into our grand designs to make life easier, more comfortable and cheaper. Our combined energy bills are just £90 per month.
“Whoever becomes the next custodian of this beautiful house, will be able to walk in, and have not only ready-made luxury in which to live, but a ready-made community.”
The accommodation briefly comprises entrance hall, with original ceiling mouldings and balustrade, leading to the generous lounge with wood burning stove, high spec breakfast kitchen with Corian work surfaces and fully integrated appliances, dining room, cloakroom/guest WC, useful storage cellar, master bedroom with bespoke American walnut wardrobes, luxuriously appointed ensuite bathroom, two good-sized bedrooms and house bathroom to the first floor, three further bedrooms and shower room to the second floor.
There is a south west-facing front garden, fully enclosed with good sized lawn, mature trees and shrubs, children’s play area and outdoor dining/ patio area. To the rear is a good size driveway, giving ample off street parking and detached garage.