Living next door to Knox Hall in Low Laithe, near Harrogate, they passed the impressive grade two-listed home on a daily basis and longed to live there.
“The views are fabulous,” says Steve. “We also love our private woodland behind. It’s somewhere to escape to, which we found was a benefit during lockdown.
“You can enjoy a walk without fear of meeting somebody else there.”
The four-bedroom home, which is on the market for £875,000, was built in about 1850 in the ‘cottage orné’ architectural style.
Homes of this ilk were built to make a good first impression: they were usually elevated and provided a clear view of the building against a wooded backdop.
Knox Hall is understood to have been built by the owner of nearby Knox Mill, which was built about 100 years earlier.
When Steve and Val bought the private woodland behind the detached home, they registered their interest in buying Knox Hall with the owner, should she ever decided to sell the house. Then one day, in 1993, she did.
“When we bought it the house it was literally falling down,” Steve says.
“There was water coming in through the roof, there were bare wires. It was quite dangerous.”
Once they had sold their house, the couple lived in two old caravans outside Knox Hall for a few months while they renovated the place.
“We ended up moving into the house in the Christmas of 1994 because the water supply froze in the caravan,” says Steve.
“We moved in with a mattress on the floor, a board up at the window, and a picnic table,”
They spent the following 12 months lovingly restoring the house, completing one room at a time to make the house liveable once again.
They replaced all the plumbing, wiring and heating systems and removed, repaired and replaced the roof.
Most of the floors were lifted, dampsealed and insulated. They laid reclaimed ballroom floors down in a couple of rooms.
A castellated bay and the single story extension on the left of the building were late Victorian additions.
Steve and Val extended the house at the back and to the right hand side, under the guidance of Listed Buildings Control.
The home now includes a sun room, which opens out onto the raised terrace leading to a beautiful vista of the Nidderdale valley and far reaching ‘postcard’ views of the Yorkshire Dales.
All the major work was completed by builders but the couple decorated the house themselves.
“It looks fabulous, it’s unique,” says Steve.
Cottage orné was a 19th century architectural movement that elevated cottages to an ornamental artistic standard, bridging all social classes in England.
After becoming popular in England, the movement spread to Ireland, the rest of the United Kingdom, mainland Europe, and across the world.
“Houses of this style apparently were built on a rise and had a background of woodland so this is a perfect example of this cottage orné style of property,” Steve says.
The house was built as part of the Knox Mill complex.
However, it is thought to have been occupied by the mill manager and his family and the time keeper and his family.
“Looking at the house, you’d think the owner would have built it for his own use, and that’s possibly what he did,” says Steve.
“But we don’t think he ever lived here because it was split into two with two thirds occupied by the mill manager and his family and the other third by the timekeeper and his family.”
When Knox Mill closed, it was converted into housing and later became a restaurant. It is now housing again.
There’s also a fascinating photograph of Knox Hall at the turn of the 20th Century in Nidderdale Museum.
“If you look carefully you can actually see a lady peeking around the corner in old fashioned clothing and smoke coming out of the chimneys,” Steve says.
“It’s really interesting to see it being lived in more than 100 years ago.”
Knox Hall is now on the open market for the first time in about 100 years, generating a huge amount of interest, with thousands of hits on estate agent Beadnall Copley’s site.
“Let’s face it, a lot of people are just being nosy, as I would be, but we’ve also started viewings,” Steve says.
According to Steve, the previous owners had lived in Knox Hall since about 1940 and they bought it by knocking on the door of the owners before them.
It’s with a heavy heart that Steve and Val, who are now in their mid-70s, have decided to sell the house and downsize before it becomes too much to manage.
“We felt we should be moving on and letting somebody else take on the custody of Knox Hall before we’re in a position where we physically can’t cope any more,” Steve says.
“We want it kept for the future so that it remains a fabulous house that gets looked at time and again and is photographed by visitors.”
He adds: “I think sometimes you don’t appreciate what you’ve got until people say ‘wow, what a view’. Then you look at it and think yes it is a fabulous view.
“We’ve been here 27 years so we’ve got used to it but we’re really going to miss it.
“This is going to be the next stage of our life. Something to look forward to and not look back with regret.”
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