Brookfoot House, Brighouse

The site where Brookfoot House once stood is a lonely, desolate place, seldom visited and often overlooked. This is hardly surprising given how inaccessible the area is. The ruins lie in a tract of dense, overgrown woodland on the steep hillside between Brookfoot Lane running up to Southowram and the industrial estate which clutters the bottom of the Walterclough Valley opposite the Red Rooster. Little remains of the substantial structure today for but the odd tumbledown wall and the course of its foundations, all swathed in nettles and ivy. Nonetheless, the land has not been used for any other purpose in almost a hundred years and you can still sense its absence, a potent testament to the power of entropy and decay.

The industrial estate which stands in the valley bottom is perhaps the only surviving remnant of its Victorian heritage, for there has been activity there since Joseph Richardson founded Brookfoot Dye Works on the site in 1870. It is unclear exactly when Brookfoot House was built. A house stood on the site in the 1830s, occupied by a stone merchant named Samuel Taylor but it was either enlarged or entirely rebuilt by Richardson in 1879, who lived there until his death in 1885. The business passed to Thornton, Hannam & Marshall in 1894 and the house was subsequently occupied by a senior partner of that firm, David Hannam Thornton and his family until the 1920s when it was allowed to fall into dereliction.

Brookfoot House must have been an impressive building in its day, a late Victorian mansion complete with ballroom, billiard room and ornamental gardens. It is scarcely surprising that the ruins of such an imposing edifice in such a solitary place should have left a profound psychic impression and there is a palpable atmosphere in the woods around the site today. It is noticeable that no birds sing in the trees there and the place always feels cold and dank, even in summer. Meanwhile, local children exploring the area have reported seeing a shadowy lone figure in Victorian garb pacing on the terrace where the house once stood and the clatter of hoofs nearby, perhaps from phantom horses on the now overgrown driveway.

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi

    Congratulations on a well-designed and atmospheric website.

    A few years ago, we discovered hundreds of letters and photos in our attic here in Cleveland. They belonged to a lady called Annie Bowen who rented a room in the house and died here in 1940.

    Her mother was called Anne Brooke, from Cleckheaton, and Annie jotted down some rudimentary notes about her mother’s early life when she died in 1898. They include the following about Brookfoot:

    “Mr Naylor, mother’s Guardian lived at a house called Brookfoot. Large house. Dining Room, Drawing-room, Library, Breakfast-room. An organ in the Library. Brookfoot is about three and half miles from Halifax. . . . Miss Paget’s School was called Law Hill about two miles from South Owram where mother went to school. Miss Emily Bronte was a Governess there at that time. . . . Law Hill is two and half miles from Halifax. It slopes down from South Owram on one side and Halifax on the other. Mrs Naylor was very rich. She was sister to Mrs Heap . . . ”

    Annie’s mother is referring to the 1830s and 1840s, so it looks as if this Brookfoot house predated the house that Joseph Richardson built in 1879 and which features in your photo. Do you have any information on this earlier house? Might it have occupied the same site as Richardson’s house?

    ‘Mr Naylor’ is almost certainly Samuel Naylor, a stone merchant, who lived at Brookfoot and died in 1867 at Otley. As Annie’s notes suggest, there was a marriage link to the Heap family, and this led to a business partnership between Naylor and Heap. They feature in several trade directories and newspaper ads. I’m assuming that Richardson acquired the Brookfoot site and perhaps the stone merchant business in the late 1860s or early 1870s?

    I would appreciate any help or advice on tracing this earlier Brookfoot House.

    Best wishes
    Tony Nicholson
    The Cottage
    High Street
    Brotton
    Saltburn

    • Thanks for your kind words regarding the website, Tony, and for your comment. This is indeed fascinating information for me, as I’ve been curious about Brookfoot House for years, since I was a child exploring the isolated and atmospheric ruins. Plans of Joseph Richardson’s 1879 building are held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service. I’d always assumed they were architects’ designs for the construction of a new building, but the floor plan is very similar to the rooms you describe in the Naylor house so it may therefore be that Richardson simply extended the existing building. I’ve certainly never come across evidence of any other Brookfoot House in the area. Clearly I shall have to go back to look at the plans again and see if they shed any light in view of this new information.

  2. My great aunt was married to david hanam thornton and lived at brookfoot house which my father visited regualrly as a boy. We have a range of photos both inside and ourtside for those interested.

    Phil Stead (great nephew of Isabella thornton (nee Stead)
    prstead@yahoo.co.uk

    • Thanks for your comment, Phil. I’m fascinated by the history of Brookfoot House, having lived very close to its ruins during my childhood and spent many hours exploring them. I would absolutely love to see the photos. I shall send you an email in the next few days, if that’s okay?

  3. This is all very interesting I would love to see the pictures of Brookfoot House, my relative lived at the house in 1881, her name was Annie Bower. Possibly a coincidence and not the same person that Tony refers to, but if you still have the letters Tony can you pls scan a few.

  4. hi.fantastic site.. i was born in southowram..and allways had an interest in the local history.. used to play down in the ruins, the cellar was still there a few years back but is covered up now..some large stone gate pillars are at the bottom of the snicket going up to brookfoot lane so i knew it was something substantial but never knew there was a mansion there..id luv to see any photos of it..thanx
    for the great site ..cmarshall

    • Thanks for your comment; I’m glad you’re enjoying the site. I grew up in Brookfoot and similarly used to play amongst the ruins in my childhood. By that time, the cellar had collapsed (or been filled in), but the entrance was still visible. I haven’t been up there for years now, but I keep meaning to visit the site again and see if anything has changed (especially since the new warehouses have been built along the bottom).


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