The most remarkable self-built home in Bronte country

Patience paid off for the couple who self-built this incredible home near Haworth. Sharon Dale reports.

The impressive rear of the house
The impressive rear of the house

The front facade of Steve and Margaret Taylor’s home in the village of Oxenhope, near Haworth, is so discreet that few people notice it as they drive past. On closer inspection, it appears to be a small, single-storey house with contemporary touches and exquisite detailing.

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In fact, the property is one of the most remarkable modern homes ever constructed in the Worth Valley and is much bigger and far more magnificent than the front elevation suggests.

The discreet front of the property. PIC: Jim Varney

Built into a hillside, the rear of the house is three storeys with enormous areas of glazing that deliver breathtaking views across a reservoir and the countryside beyond.

The journey from inception to completion was long, arduous and more stressful than most of us could bear. It took a decade to get it out of the ground even though Bradford City Council’s planning department was sympathetic to the idea of adding a 21st century home of exceptional architectural value to the street scene.Its existence is down to Steve’s refusal to give up on the idea of self-building on the plot and his patience and determination eventually won the day.

The notion began when the Taylors, who have lived in Oxenhope for 30 years, spotted the land adjoining an old mill that had just been converted into homes.“I knew it would be a great place to build a house but it took me six years to buy it. I contacted the mill developer back in 1995 and asked if he would sell the land to me. He declined and later put in an application to build five houses on it but that was refused,” says Steve. When the firm was bought out by another developer in 2001, I tried again and they said ‘yes’.”After seeing architect Ric Blenkharn’s work in The Yorkshire Post magazine, he asked him over to see the land.“I’m an engineer by trade and I’ve always been interested in design and modern buildings, so Ric’s work appealed to me. We fought through the brambles and he showed the same passion for the site that I had and I knew he was the man for the job,” adds Steve, whose aim was to construct the property when he retired.

Building the dream

The side of the house. PIC: Jim Varney

In 2008, he left his business and began the quest to build his dream home. With no wish to dwell on the difficulties and resistance encountered, he adds that he was buoyed by Bradford City Council planning officers Martyn Burke and Peter Timbrell who were supportive of contemporary design and was impressed by the council’s building control manager, David Hill, who was helpful with advice.Construction eventually started in 2016 when Steve was 69 and he and Margaret moved in in January. Meticulously planned and using a team of trusted and talented contractors, the build went smoothly despite the challenging, sloping site.

Ric Blenkharn says: “The house is designed to be modest when viewed from the street but on walking in via a discreet front entrance set to one side, the views of the reservoir are revealed from what is actually the top floor of the house.“Building into the hillside was a challenge demanding a sizeable retaining structure around which the house was then constructed.”The front of the property is clad in slivers of stone that reflect the dry stone walling that is familiar in Brontë country. The rear features huge slabs of Ashlar stone and zinc cladding.On the ground-floor level is a garden room and an en-suite bedroom. The middle floor has a kitchen, utility, sitting room and a service room housing the boiler. The top floor has two bedrooms with balconies and two bathrooms.

The property, which is heavily insulated, also has underfloor heating and a mechanical heat recovery and ventilation unit. All the lighting is energy-efficient LED.“We lived in a bungalow before and that was £220 per month to run and this is £150 per month because it is so energy-efficient,” says Steve, who says he thoroughly enjoyed the process of building the house. “I also had some fabulous people working on this place. I’d worked with them all before so I knew and trusted them. I didn’t ask them for a fixed price, I agreed a day rate instead and that worked well,” he adds.The total cost of the project was greater than they expected because of planning costs, environmental and contamination surveys and the expense of getting gas and electricity to the property. The bill for that came to £100,000. The build costs were £310,000 thanks to Steve managing the development himself.Both he and Margaret agree that the expense and the decade-long wait have been more than worthwhile. “It really is a wonderful place and waking up to this view every morning is amazing,” she says.

Steve agrees and adds: “It’s incredible. It may not look like a conventional home to retire to but I have left space to put a lift in for when we get older.”Ric Blenkharn paid tribute to the couple. “I have never known a client with such tenacity and determination to build a contemporary house. The issues on getting this through were challenging to say the least but with equal determination, we stuck to the task.”

The kitchen with views over the countryside and reservoir. PIC: Jim Varney

Useful Contacts

Architects, Bramhall Blenkharn, www.brable.comGroundworks and concrete,R Farrell, 07789016381Builders and dry stone, Tall & Small, 07517 910920Joinery and much more,B Anderson 07810 024108Electrical, S Bradbury, 07931 631375Zinc cladding, Unique Metal Roofing, 07708543048Aluminium glazing, Alpine, 0113 253 0254Roofing, QM Roofing, 07977 213747Stone supplies, Bingley Stone, 01535 273813

The kitchen is designed to make the most of the views
One of the bedrooms with views. PIC: Jim Varney
The balcony with long-range views. PIC: Jim Varney
The sitting area on the first floor. PIC: Jim Varney