No Ordinary Barn
In late 1995, Dan and Hilly Fletcher stumbled upon a huge, derelict but still majestic building perched on the side of the Pennines above the village of Luddenden. It was part of Oats Royd Mill, known locally as Murgatroyds, after the family who built it and ran the worsted woollen business.
20 months later(Aug '97) it finally became ours, and there began an ambitious programme of restoration and conversion to bring the barn back to life. All the difficulties encountered during the purchase meant we were ready to have builders on site within 2 weeks of completion! The shell was expertly restored by local specialist building company George Watsons of Hipperholme in about 5 months, after which we took over the management of the project from architect Steve Jordan of Barker and Jordan Architects in Bradford.
We moved in (by now with 2 small children) in May '99, at a point where we had a comparatively small amount of the interior actually habitable (all four of us sharing a bedroom . . .).
Work continued over the next 4 years to convert the the rest of the interior. The apartment became habitable in the spring of 2002.
It was obvious right at the outset that our family of 4 would rattle around in a structure of this magnitude, and we decided we would offer accommodation for practical as well as financial reasons.
Oct '97. The main roof was stripped of slates and its original (now brittle) pine under-boards, and newly felted. Most of the timber was in good condition - except the ends of two of the main trusses which needed steel 'shoes', which can still be seen in our music room. When it came to the 'lean-to' roof, it was a different story - very little of the original structure could be re-used. Remarkably, only about 15% of the slates over all needed renewing - with reclaimed of course. The ridge tiles are of the traditional type which are attached to each other using a dowel running through the hollow section at their apex.
Dec '95. This is how we first saw the Barn. We loved it immediately - for its elegance and massiveness, but didn't really expect it to become ours. Perhaps the main problem was that we had just too much imagination to let it go . . .
Dec '95. Very green and slimey on the north side - the cast iron gutters had long gone and there had been some movement in the walls, but only because most of the mortar was washed out.. Slates were overhanging, ready to slice someone in half - worse still, the roofers discovered that the huge stone slabs high up on top of the south pediment were no longer attached by their iron straps and pegs, and could have fallen at any time . . .
Oct '97. We had great fun climbing the scaffolding to take in the views (and inspect the roof). We didn't actually live in the trusty VW camper, but it was very useful with the children being so young (we only had a very small Annie at this point). Everyone who thought we might be mad when we bought the Barn was absolutely sure we were by this time . . .
May '98. The Barn is (nearly) a dry shell, with all the new windows fitted, and all repointing done - including reconstruction of top part of north and east walls. We were yet to find the lovely (reclaimed) glazed coaching door for the garage, and the workshop doors were still to be moved from their original place on the opposite corner of the building. The large piles of stone were a constant (but moving) feature for the next couple of years or so.
May '98. New apertures had to be cut through the east (and north) wall for the mezzanine Office windows - this floor was previously a hayloft with no windows (compare with picture top left). It was amazing how inviting the Barn looked by this stage (the early summer light helped, of course). The piles of blockwork are evidence that internal work was in full swing by now.
June '99. Nearly all the stone sets in the north yard (as well as the flagged steps) were carefully hand-laid by Geoff Wilkinson from Oxenhope, and his wonderful Irish mate Frank. These two were also responsible for most of the later internal work - willing to interpret our often strange instructions in their excellent masonry and joinery. Our good friend and local wall builder / drainage expert David Greenwood later continued the back-breaking work of laying sets in the east yard, as well as building walls and preparing ground for the tarmac driveway, all the way down to the road.
The story of the internal conversion of Oats Royd Barn will follow when we have time . . .