After the hurly burly of moving in, it’s common for those who buy older houses to wonder about previous inhabitants. Who were they? What did they do for a living? Were they happy? What did the house look like way back when? These recurring questions sparked the hit BBC TV series A House Through Time, which saw historian and presenter Dr David Olusoga reveal the stories of individual homes and their inhabitants down the decades.
Unearthing architectural plans and scrutinising newspaper reports while delving into library archives, he also hunts down descendants of previous owners and tenants to dig into the detail, revealing all human life from the humdrum to the heady, along with triumphs and tragedies. All this while charting the social and economic history of the area.
One of the most fascinating four-part programmes centred on 5 Grosvenor Mount in Headingley, the home of Jackie and Pete Slater. Their Victorian terraced villa built in 1852 is tucked away on a sought-after row of properties constructed for the middle classes. Now on the market for £775,000 with Manning Stainton, the sale is a rare chance to buy a house in one of the most sought-after spots in this popular Leeds suburb.
Thanks to its starring role in A House Through Time, the much-loved six-bedroom home also comes with the rare benefit of a comprehensive history. “We had a leaflet through the door asking if we would be interested in taking part in the series and we said ‘yes’, thinking they probably wouldn’t choose us,” says Jackie.
The Slaters bought the house in 1995 and fate appears to have played a hand in this. “My parents lived a couple of streets away and when we were children, me and my friend used to sit on the wall opposite this row and I dreamed of living in this house,” says Jackie.
It’s easy to see why the property was chosen by the TV production team. Many of its period features remain, telling their own story, and the house also came with a box of land and title deeds, which helped researchers find previous inhabitants.
The first was William Bruce, a solicitor and social reformer who also campaigned against the death penalty. He rented the house for £30 a year.
In the late 1850s, Ann Dawson, a former mill girl who had wed a wealthy merchant who then passed away, had the misfortune to then marry Rhodes Dawson, whose family owned a cloth dressing business.
The couple bought and lavished a small fortune on the property before spendthrift Dawson was declared bankrupt and Ann was back she started, on the breadline. In 1866 William Nicholson, a building contractor, and his family moved in. A Swaledale boy with a talent for joinery, he climbed the social ladder after moving to Leeds,where he launched a construction company that built the famous County Arcade, The Queens Hotel, Tetley’s Brewery and churches, among other buildings. His son took over aged 20, a chip off the old block and a hero who oversaw the rebuild of the Leeds railway bridge in just two weeks after a rail disaster cut Leeds off from the North West.
Later came Popi, a Greek woman who married a Yorkshire soldier she had met during the Second World War. Also featured in the TV series was the small army of students who had lived in the house in the late 1990s when Jackie and Pete worked in Hong Kong. They had always thought it was let to young professionals. Being good natured they had a laugh and enjoyed hearing tales of student shenanigans when they met their unintended tenants as part of the programme.
The Slaters own story is a happy one. They have loved the Grade II listed, light-filled house, which is set over four floors. The original features include sash windows, shutters, period fireplaces, servants bell pulls on the fireplace, high ceilings, coving and skirtings, though the couple have sensitively updated and improved the property, while turning the lower ground floor into an apartment and installing a new kitchen on the ground floor.
5 Grosvenor Mount has its original door, a Yorkshire stone paved entrance, dados, coving, wood shutters and a sweeping staircase. To the front of the property is the large, bay-fronted sitting room with a marble fireplace and to the rear is a dining room with a huge sash window and original fireplace. The breakfast kitchen is also
at the rear with a door to the private parking and outdoor storage area.
The first-floor has a large main bedroom overlooking the garden. There is also a second and third double bedroom and a four-piece bathroom with plenty of storage. The second floor has two further double bedrooms, a shower room and boarded storage along the well-insulated eaves.
The lower ground floor level can be accessed from the main house and also from a separate entrance door. It has a hall with built-in storage, a wet room, a small kitchen and two large rooms, one of which is used as a bedroom, the other as a recording studio.
Outside is a south-facing garden with an organic vegetable patch, two lawns, a rockery and well-stocked borders. The Slaters are selling to downsize and move to the Dales and Jackie says: “We have loved living here. All the properties are owned by families and there is a great sense of community.”
For details of the sale contact Manning Stainton, tel: 0113 274 8648, www.manningstainton.co.uk.
**Number 5 Grosvenor Mount is in highly sought-after Headingley Hill and Woodhouse Conservation Area, which is an historic and little-known part of Leeds. The area is packed with fascinating architecture and secret gems like Dagmar Woods and there is access to walks along the leafy Meanwood Valley trail. The shops, restaurants and cafes in Headingley are on the doorstep and Leeds city centre is 20-minute walk away.