Red House, Gomersal: Cash-strapped Yorkshire council to sell Georgian house where Charlotte Bronte's friend lived

Kirklees Council is looking to get rid of four more key buildings as it continues its efforts to dig itself out of a £47m black hole in its budget.

At tomorrow’s (November 14) cabinet meeting, members will be asked to consider proposals to help save some much-needed cash. The proposed plans could reduce council property running costs by around £240,000 per year while continuing to protect the core estate.

Four major buildings would be impacted by such plans – the former Red House Museum at Gomersal, the DRAM (Dalton, Rawthorpe and Moldgreen) Sport and Community Centre, the HUDAWI Centre on Huddersfield’s Great Northern Street and 1 Beech Street at Paddock. On top of this, the council wants to sell several patches of land.

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The former Red House Museum, which closed in 2016, was previously earmarked for a wedding venue and holiday accommodation but after failing to receive any viable Community Asset Transfer (CAT) applications in 2021 the council is looking to sell it. The Grade II*-listed Georgian mansion dates back to the 17th century.

Red House Museum, Gomersal.Red House Museum, Gomersal.
Red House Museum, Gomersal.

For many years it was the family home of Mary Taylor, a close friend of writer Charlotte Bronte who met her when they were pupils at Roe Head School in Mirfield. Charlotte regularly visited Red House and it was the inspiration for the fictional Briarmains in her novel Shirley. The characters, the Yorke family, were based on the Taylors, who made their money from industry.

Under the proposals, the DRAM centre will also be declared surplus to the council’s requirements. The premises may be eligible for CAT which is an option that the council will explore and will be determined early next year.

The plans also address the future of the HUDAWI Centre, which has been primarily used as a venue to support council service needs with some additional bookings made by the wider community. The council will undertake the steps necessary to thoroughly explore the option of a CAT for the centre, this will be determined early next year.

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Finally, if proposals are approved, 1 Beech Street will be sold to generate funds. The 0.5-acre site includes a two-story former Methodist Church Sunday School building with a large single-story sports hall extension. The main building was closed in 2018 while the sports hall, which has remained open, is currently used by a local gymnastics club. The council has supported the club in identifying alternative premises to relocate.

Councillor Graham Turner, Cabinet Member for Finance and Regeneration, said: “The council is continuing to scrutinise all property across its estate to save the significant amounts of money required to enable us to produce a balanced budget in February. This has meant we are continually examining how we operate, and what alternatives are available to us.

“We understand the value that some of these buildings have within our communities, which is why we are committed to exploring the option of a Community Asset Transfer wherever possible and we will help and support any organisation that has a viable plan for an asset transfer.

“Continuing to reduce the number of buildings we operate from while creating a core of building assets means that we have the space we need to deliver vital services and provide office accommodation for staff while saving money.”