There aren’t many places in the countryside where you’ll find that everything runs like clockwork but there’s a very good reason for it at what used to be Manor Farm and was transformed into Wolds Village on the edge of Bainton in the Yorkshire Wolds nearly 20 years ago.
Clocks are everywhere! Grandfather clocks, but not just any grandfather clocks, these were built by Robert Holmes who came here in 1995 following a 30-year career as chief engineer at the Capper Pass smelting works in Melton before it closed down.
Bob, as he was better known to family and friends, passed away in 2009 due to prostate cancer but he’s still ticking away all around Wolds Village that now encompasses a restaurant/tearoom, art gallery, craft and gift shop, tourist information for the East Riding, and accommodation.
Sally Brealey, Bob’s daughter was in the early stages of an around the world tour with her husband Chris when her mum and dad sent her plans of what they intended to do with Manor Farm. She’s been here ever since.
“We made it as far as the Channel Islands and when we saw what they had in mind we thought it looked too good to miss. We could’ve taken it on as a farm as it had been previously but Chris and I had both worked in hotel management and had been renting a restaurant at Blacktoft on the banks of the Humber so we had visions of developing the place in both those ways.
“Dad was in his early 50s and was looking for new projects. It’s fair to say that we never had any plans to grow as big as the business has now become but it was his drive that provided the impetus. Utilising his experience as an engineer he had the skills to help us rebuild the whole place that we have designed around the two courtyards.
“One of the first things we had to do was to restore the dovecote which was set over an archway that leads into one of the courtyards. It is now a feature of Wolds Village and where everyone comes in but when we came here it was 6ft deep in pigeon droppings, plus it was falling down.
“Dad always had a mechanical mind and he took up with making grandfather clocks late in life. He made about 120 of them and there are now Robert Holmes Clocks all over the world. He made the wood cases and manufactured the clocks themselves. His workshop was a popular place for visitors and he would have long chats about what he was up to. We have quite a few of his clocks in the restaurant/tearoom, probably about a dozen. When he died quite a lot of them stopped working for a while because we’re all rubbish at keeping them going. He used to go around every week winding them all up. We need him back really.”
While clocks ticking might provide an apt description of Wolds Village’s restaurant and tearoom of today, bells tolling would have been a contrasting image of the late 18th century buildings that saw Manor Farm under the guise of the New Inn Coaching House, a court house and jail.
“This was a pub and hostelry for those coming out from Hull to get on to the Wolds and we found there is a little window in the building where beer would have been served through. The huge cellars also provided a jail for those who were sentenced at the Bainton Beacon Assizes. Villains were locked up below for their final night before being marched along the highly appropriately named Dead Lane to Neswick where they would be hung on a gibbet in the field.”
Farming became the mainstay of Manor Farm for many years and it was owned by the Megginson family for decades before Sally, Chris, Bob, his wife Maureen and their son Lewis Holmes took on the six-acre plot that also includes a shelter belt and paddock.
“This had been a traditional Georgian mixed farm. Working horses were stabled here and we also found pig pens. Cattle were still in the second courtyard when we first came but the farm itself had been empty for three years. There was such a lot to do to get it to the standard we wanted and fortunately my brother Lewis, who was involved initially, was a great help with the restoration work. He now operates his own building and restoration business in North Dalton.
“We came here on Valentine’s Day in 1995 and by 15 May we had refurbished the kitchen and the two front rooms of the farmhouse so that we could open up, start trading as a small tearoom and get people in. By September that same year we had built the toilet block. It wasn’t until the following year that the dovecote itself was rebuilt.
“Every year we try to do something and the restaurant/tearoom now seats 90 in four different rooms. It was ten years before we built on the accommodation that currently runs to seven en-suite bedrooms with five doubles and two twins. They are all themed to historic periods using furniture that fits with that era. Our plans are to provide more accommodation. There’s a market for family rooms and single business people.”
Sally and Chris’ two daughters are already playing their part in the future of Wolds Village. Jasmine, 13, being the Saturday girl and Willow, 11, a dab hand with a duster.
It seems as though Bob’s legacy is ticking over nicely.