Brierley’s own Arts and Crafts house is an architectural gem

Yorkshire “Lutyens” Walter Brierley built this Arts and Crafts house for himself with gardens by renowned designer Gertrude Jekyll. Sharon Dale reports


Photographer Brian Cooke has a star-studded past and a place in the music hall of fame but he is also something of a property legend in York.

He and his wife Marylin are serial movers and over the past 25 years they have bought, renovated and sold some of York’s finest homes.

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“We love York and we love big, beautiful houses,” says Scarborough-born Brian, who made his name photographing rock stars and designing album sleeves for the likes of Roxy Music, John Martyn and Jethro Tull.


Loving and leaving is their style and, on average, they move every two to three years. Only one house has really captured their heart and it proved elusive for a quarter of a century.

Marylin fell head over heels with the architectural dream home after moving to the house opposite. At that point she hadn’t even seen the splendid interior.

“She took in a parcel while the owners were out and delivering it was her chance to have a look inside She was blown away and that was it, we waited 25 years for it to come on to the market,” says Brian.

Bishopsbarns, on sale for £2.4m with Blenkin and Co, is best described as “Arts and Crafts heaven” although its architect Walter Brierley put the builders and craftsmen working on it through hell.


He was known as Yorkshire’s answer to Lutyens, “the greatest British architect”, and he insisted on perfection for a property that was to be a showcase for his talents.

He built Bishopsbarns in 1906 for his own occupation and commissioned Gertrude Jekyll to design the garden.

The seven-bedroom house extends to 8,000 sq ft with a 150ft frontage. It is built of handmade bricks and tiles, set back behind a cobbled forecourt of pebbles from the beach at Flamborough.

The grade II star listed property, which is close to the Knavesmire, is one of the best representations of an architectural movement that began in 1880s. The Arts and Crafts style, pioneered by William Morris, grew out of concern for the effects of industrialisation on design and skills. It advocated turning the home into a work of art and placed great emphasis on craftsmanship and natural materials.


No expense was spared at Bishopbarns, which still boasts all its original features including elaborate plasterwork by George Bankart, gun metal fire grates with Hoptonwood stone surrounds and timber mantles, oak woodblock floors and panelling. There is brass door furniture, leaded lights and, according to Edward Hartshorne of Blenkin and Co, “a pervasive feeling of calm”. In 1922, Country Life wrote: “The arrangement of the house is a compendium of domestic comfort.”

Workaholic Walter Brierley certainly welcomed this comfort. Between 1885 and 1926 he was responsible for more than 300 buildings, including schools, churches, houses and civic buildings, in York and across the north.

The Cookes bought his former home five-and-a-half years ago from the elderly owners who had cherished it for almost four decades.

“It was a bit tired and the décor was quite dark. We wanted to lighten it up and bring it up to modern living standards,” says Brian, who now owns a photo ordering business.

He and Marilyn love a project. He is in charge of the finances and Marilyn is a dab hand at design. Together they have given the property some 21st century touches under the watchful eye of English Heritage.

They have installed a new kitchen and bathrooms along with a heating and hot water system and a hard wired internet service. They also got permission to install a new door on to the garden from the kitchen and they freshened the décor. Purple is the main accent colour and there is a heather-coloured Aga, which is fitting for a property of such architectural royalty.

The couple also tracked down Jekyll’s original design and planting guide for the garden, which was stored at the University of California, Berkeley.

The south-facing, three-quarters of an acre garden is divided into a series of rooms, with herringbone paths and a central bowling green surrounded by the original yew hedging. There is also a tennis lawn and rose garden

“The gardens needed rejuvenating, although a lot of the original elements are still there, including the 100-year-old yew hedges,” says Brian, who is selling to move on to another project.

“We have fulfilled our ambition of living here and we have enjoyed it but we are moving to a place on the outskirts of York, which is another project. This is an incredibly comfortable, grown-up property and it has everything you need. The quality of the workmanship in here is absolutely sensational,” says Brian, whose favourite feature is elaborate sitting room ceiling. “This house really shows what a brilliant architect Brierley was. He wanted the best and he got it.”

* Bishopsbarns, St George’s Place, York, is £2.4m. It has an entrance hall, cloakroom, sitting room, study drawing room, garden hall, dining room, kitchen, two larders, pantry, a butler’s pantry and cellars. There are five first floor bedrooms, three bathrooms and a laundry room. On the second floor, there are two bedroomsm plus a reception room and bathroom.

Outside, there is garaging and parking along with formal gardens set in three quarters of an acre, with tennis lawn and bowling green, potting shed and greenhouses

Contact: Blenmin and Co., York, tel: 01904 671672,