The 14th-century building between Leeds and Bradford, which is owned by conservation charity the Landmark Trust, hit the headlines last year when an entire room covered in Tudor wall paintings that had been lost to time was discovered hidden behind a wall.
The 'once in a lifetime' discovery of the 16th-century art was made behind a 1930s fireplace. Historians used to seeing 'little snatches' of wall painting revealed were astounded as they believed an entire decorated chamber dating from the Reformation and the reign of Queen Elizabeth I was unprecedented and there are few similar surviving examples, particularly in the north. The area where the find was made was an unassuming cottage that had been plastered over in the Victorian period. The art itself was also considered more sophisticated than other examples of its kind.
The house was the seat of the Calverley family for centuries until the 1750s, when they sold the estate and moved to Esholt Hall. Calverley Old Hall was then subdivided into cottages. Sir William Calverley, a father of 17 children who was knighted in 1549, is believed to be the man who commissioned the painted chamber.
The newly-announced £1.6million restoration grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund will enable the Landmark Trust to bring the entire complex back into use with the paintings preserved as a focal point. A small holiday let has been in operation in the manor since the 1980s, but further visitor accommodation and community spaces will now be added in derelict parts of the building.
A local contractor, Dobson Construction of Ilkley, has been appointed to carry out the work.
The crumbling Grade I-listed hall had been considered among the most in-jeopardy entries on Historic England's Heritage At Risk register.
National Lottery Heritage Fund director David Renwick said: “We are thrilled to be supporting The Landmark Trust to transform Calverley Old Hall and ensure that it is safeguarded for future generations. Through this exciting Heritage Enterprise project we will be helping to remove the building from the Heritage at Risk register thanks to money raised by National Lottery players. Not only will this project revamp this architectural hidden gem of Yorkshire, but it will also play a significant role in boosting the local economy and aiding the wider regeneration of the area by reinventing the Old Hall to become home to striking holiday accommodation and valuable community space.
“It is also fantastic news this project will also provide the chance to not only enjoy visiting the Old Hall, but to get truly hands-on through apprenticeships and training opportunities to acquire declining heritage skills and pass these on to the next generation. We know that giving people that chance to have a closer understanding and relationship to their heritage reaps many benefits, and is something we are proud to fund.”
It was an earlier £150,000 grant for conservation work that enabled the paintings to be uncovered in 2021.
Landmark Trust chairman Alan Leibowitz added: ‘The transformation of Calverley Old Hall will be one of Landmark’s most precious and costly projects. Forty years in development yet now in the last knockings of our fundraising appeal, thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players together with other wonderful supporters, we can reveal and share the special place. We are incredibly grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and all who have contributed so far.’