Noble past: Once a knight’s secret haven, Padside Hall fell into ruin before being rescued by designer Ray Wilson. Now it’s up for sale. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.
Working in London at the cutting edge of design with Sir Terence Conran, among others, Ray Wilson had a contrasting passion for the past.
So when he spotted an advert in this newspaper that stated “a ruin for restoration, historical interest,” he responded immediately.
It was 1974, long before historic renovation became popular, but Leeds-born designer Ray was captivated by the idea of rescuing a piece of history that also fulfilled his wish for a second home in Yorkshire.
Finding it wasn’t easy. Tucked away in the hamlet of Thornthwaite, near Pateley Bridge, it was built in the 1400s and gentrified by a knight, who added two wings and used it as a hideaway and, rumour has it, as a love nest.
Sir William Ingilby’s main home was Ripley Castle, but amid unrest from Catholic nobles who rose against the protestant Queen in the late 1500s, Padside served as a retreat. He clearly enjoyed the idyllic spot, where he is said to have kept his mistress.
Its other claim to fame is that highwayman Dick Turpin was at Padside when the King’s men came searching. He is said to have leapt over the five foot high courtyard wall and escaped.
The derelict, gritstone hall had been empty for 40 years and the roof had collapsed when Ray arrived fresh off the train from King’s Cross, but the parlous state of the building was eclipsed by a sense of derring do and romance.
“I fell in love at first sight. The nettles were shoulder high in the courtyard, a family of owls had made their home in the house and there was no front door, but I had to have it,” he says.
“When I pulled off the old wood nailed across the doorway, a key dated 1450 fell out.”
He has spent the last four decades restoring the Grade II listed property in keeping with its origins. The design is true to the English vernacular and based on functionality, craft and local materials, from the stone floors to the simplicity of the furniture and furnishings.
“It stirred my interest in vernacular architecture,” says Ray, who is set to pass on his legacy to a new owner. Padside is up for sale with Knight Frank.
Selling and moving back to London has been a difficult decision for Ray, who made the hall his main residence in 2008.
In the early years, he travelled up from London at weekends, leaving his renowned design practice to camp out in the ruin.
“I have happy memories of arriving Friday night, going to the pub and working from dawn till dusk the next day,” he says.
A layout and inventory, composed after Sir William’s death in 1578, helped connect the present with the Tudor past. It shows the U-shaped layout and arched doorway into the enclosed courtyard that still exists today.
The property was later home to the Wigglesworth family for over 300 years but was left derelict from 1930 until Ray bought it.
He began by fixing to roof, which still had stone slates held in place by sheep bone pegs. On the first floor, he created a gallery, as he was unable to rescue some of the oak boards. The rest of the space was carved into five bedrooms. He also installed the property’s first ever bathroom.
“I used a Portaloo for the first 25 years,” he says. The ground floor retains its Elizabethan layout and many historic features, including the huge kitchen fireplace and stone beehive oven. The 1725 range still has a bakestone where havercake, unlevened oat meal bread, was cooked.
Electricity was installed for the first time, so heaters could supplement open fires and help dry out the three foot thick stone walls.
A proficient amateur builder and joiner, Ray did much if the work himself and designed and made replicas, including the 16th century-style oak doors. The early English furniture was sourced from antiques shops and salerooms.
“I did it piecemeal and it was very much a hobby. I enjoyed getting physically involved but finding the right materials and craftsmen was hard at first as there was little concept of conservation and repair in the 1970s. I was insistent that any oak we had to replace here would be English oak, but it’s very rare. I couldn’t find the right glazing, so ended up buying handmade cylinder glass from France,” says Ray, who was later joined by his partner, Gisela Moritz, a sculptor, who uses the old East Wing as a studio. A keen walker, her work is heavily influenced by the landscape around the hall.
“I love the wildness of the area and this house is Ray’s favourite toy,” says Gisela.
Ray enjoys maintaining Padside and oversees his practice in London. He also devotes much of his time to his love for traditional buildings and their care.
He set up the Yorkshire Regional Group of SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) and continues to research and educate on the subject.
He hopes the new owner will love and respect the hall, and will continue his work. The East wing remains untouched and there is scope to put in a ground source heat system. “I will miss it. It’s unique,” he says.
• Padside Hall, Thornthwaite, is for sale with Knight Frank, tel: 01423 530088; SPAB, www.spab.org.uk