Restoration heaven: this gorgeous Georgian house near York won the 2023 Historic Houses Restoration Award
The prestigious accolade, sponsored by Sotheby’s auction house, recognises outstanding examples of the work being carried out by private owners across the UK to protect and preserve the historic buildings in their care and in this case the project also included sensitive modernisation.
Bought in 1951 by Lord Martin Fitzalan Howard, the beautiful Regency house later passed to his daughter Clare Wood and her husband Simon who recently handed on the keys to their son Charlie and his wife, Hatta Byng.
Each generation has loved and tended the property and left their own mark on it while preserving its period features but Charlie and Hatta had the added advantage.
Hatta studied History of Art and Architecture and worked in interior design before becoming editor of House & Garden magazine, while Simon too has a great eye for design, a keen interest in interiors and enjoys hunting down period furniture and antiques.
Respecting the property’s prestigious roots was uppermost in their mind when they began work on the nine bedroom hall, which was built in 1804 by Benjamin Agar to the design of Peter Atkinson, junior partner of renowned Yorkshire architect John Carr.
Throughout the project, the key aim for Charlie and Hatta was to ensure the survival of the house for future generations, whilst remaining faithful to Agar and Atkinson’s original vision, which was to create a statement property for the Vale of York and a family home.
They carried out a programme of restoration over a period of eighteen months, beginning in late 2020, working with Rupert Cunningham, the senior architectural designer at Architecture and Design practice Ben Pentreath.
Twentieth century alterations and additions that were not in keeping were removed,, including blocked up original doorways between the drawing room and main reception rooms, which were reopened to reinstate the original flow of the property.
Upstairs, a large bedroom that had been divided into two was turned into one large bedroom and bathroom and part of the ground floor that had been converted into a flat was brought back as part of the main house.
“Under the carpet in the flat were old York stone flags, which we had relaid in the main corridor from the hall to the back door,” says Hatta.
Multiple layers of paint that had clogged up and obscured decorative cornices and ceiling roses were carefully removed by Beningbrough based specialist decorators and conservators Hesp & Jones, who also created the stipple paint finish in the drawing room.
Heating a large period house costs a small fortune and to that end a sustainable woodchip boiler was installed to deliver heat and hot water.
The heart of the house is the living kitchen, which the Woods designed with Rupert Cunningham. The walls are in Little Greene’s Silent White and the bespoke cabinets painted in Little Greene’s Dock Blue. The antique delft tiles are from the Netherlands and the kitchen table was made by Barney Lee.
The reclaimed floorboards, originally from Kiplin Hall, were sourced, sanded and laid by Danny Stenhouse of Sandhouse Floor Sanding & Refinishing.
A chimney breast housing an open fire plus the electric Aga that heats up in just half an hour add cosiness and there’s also a separate pantry/back kitchen to keep clutter at bay.
The decor is exquisite with wallpaper in the main bedroom by deGournay while furniture includes inherited pieces plus fabulous finds from Tennants in Leyburn, The French House in York, Tallboy Interiors in Malton and Dreweatts auction house in London.
Hatta says: “We listened to the house when we decorated and furnished it. We wanted to create a feeling that everything had been here for sometime.”
The end result is remarkable and meant moving from their townhouse in London to settle in Yorkshire, which has brought them great contentment.
“This is the biggest house we have lived in as a family and it has grandeur but it is a liveable size and we use all the rooms. It is very much a family home and the children are really happy here. Moving here has been brilliant for family life and when we need to go to London we can get there easily on the train from York,” says Hatta.
On winning the Historic Houses Restoration Award, Charlie and Hatta add: “The goals for our restoration of Brockfield were to restore the house back to Benjamin Agar’s and
Peter Atkinson’s original vision and their design of the early Regency period, and to create a family home for the twenty first century. We loved doing it and we’re delighted that the judges have recognised the ambition and the execution.”
Ben Cowell, Director General at Historic Houses, said: “The restoration that has been carried out at Brockfield is simply exquisite. The judges were unanimous that it should be awarded the 2023 Historic Houses Restoration Award, to recognise brilliance in giving a Georgian home a vibrant new lease of life. The mastery of the interventions are such that it is difficult to see where the 18th century ends and the 21st century begin.”
Lord Dalmeny, UK Chairman of Sotheby’s, added: “What a transformation. Brockfield reborn, history respected and the future secured.”
*Brockfield Hall near York is available to hire for smaller events, including dinners and music/concerts, and as part of its membership of www.historichouses.org, it opens its doors to the public once a year for 28 days with 2024 dates to be announced on www.brockfieldhall.co.uk/Brockfield_hall_location.htm