“I believe that we are meant to do what we are meant to do in life,” says Steph Barraclough. “A friend told us that there was this wreck for sale in Mirfield so we went to have a look. It had been split into bedsits and was in a real state, but it just said something to me and so we bought it. I had two children aged two and four and we lived in one room. Everything needed doing and Chris, my husband, did it all. It was project for him – it’s his life and he loves doing it. There are always things to do even after all this time.”
There had never been a plan to turn the hall into a business, but once the couple’s children had grown up Steph, who is now in her early seventies, says she knew they had to do something with it.
“We couldn’t have moved – it is just too hard to let go of something you have invested so much time and energy in.” Steph had trained as a nurse in London where she met Chris who was also in medicine. “We met and within two weeks he proposed. Forty eight years later we are still together,” she says.
The couple moved to Yorkshire when Chris decided to start work in the family textile business. Frustrated with the pressure and time restraints of modern day nursing, and not being able to provide the care she felt patients needed, Steph retrained as a massage and complementary therapist, with a passion for aromatherapy.
“I believe totally in the power of touch to heal,” says Steph who at the age of 39 was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I woke up one night and just had a feeling that something was terribly wrong. I booked in for a private mammogram and, although they couldn’t see anything initially, the doctor took a second look and found a tiny lump that he wasn’t happy about,” she says.
It turned out to be breast cancer. Alongside conventional treatment, Steph turned to the healing power of massage and the strength of mind.
It therefore made sense to turn Eastthorpe into a health spa and retreat. With the help of daughter Sam, who now runs the Potting Shed in Batley, the Barracloughs started the process of transforming their home into a business where Steph could also have her own complementary therapy practice. She was so passionate about standards and the unregulated nature of things like aromatherapy that she decided to do something about it.
Steph founded the Northern School of Aromatherapy as a platform to instil her knowledge and provide a centre of excellence for future therapists to work in the industry.
Initially Eastthorpe Hall was residential with six bedrooms, but Steph underestimated the amount of work it would take. “It nearly killed me,” she admits. The hall is now an award-winning day spa and retreat which is celebrating its 20th birthday this year.
The holistic spa has changed over the years with the tranquil gardens being developed and the addition of an inside swimming pool and spa.
And tranquillity is what Steph strives for and achieves seemingly effortlessly. “You would never know you were in the middle of Mirfield,” she says. And she is right. Sitting in Eastthorpe’s stunning gardens, surrounded by trees and birdsong, you could easily be in the countryside. And inside the tranquillity continues. No mobile phones or digital devices are allowed
“Our ethos is to give the mind as well as the body a much-needed break in the frantic world we live in today,” says Steph.
While the spa offers many of the traditional beauty spa packages, it’s not just about pampering. Steph and Chris’s son Thomas runs his osteopathy practice from the hall, although it does have a separate entrance.
The spa is a centre of excellence for treating cancer patients. Based on her own experience, Steph recognises the emotional aspects of the illness and understands the importance of feeling “equal”, “unjudged” and “safe”, all difficult emotions to deal with when going through something potentially life-changing.
This ethos runs through the core of what Eastthorpe Hall is about – the antithesis of a conveyer belt spa environment. It prides itself in its bespoke approach to each individual that enters the building, whether for a single treatment, half or full day.
It is important to Steph that every part of a person is nourished and to that end the award- winning chef Granville Graham uses only the finest locally sourced ingredients, specialising in dietary restrictions.
One quirky detail you notice when you enter Eastthorpe Hall is that it is full of beautiful old clocks, but none of them work – on purpose.
“Life is so regimented,” Steph says. “We try to remove all traces of the pressures of the outside world and try to create a little bit of heaven on earth.”