Building project marks new start for Engine Room

Darren Evans, design director, and Lesley Gulliver, managing director, of Huddersfield-based branding consultancy The Engine Room.  Picture: Tony Johnson.
Darren Evans, design director, and Lesley Gulliver, managing director, of Huddersfield-based branding consultancy The Engine Room. Picture: Tony Johnson.
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It was once a piggery owned by a businessman who employed Anne Brontë as a governess for his children, but now the site of an historic mill is being turned into new headquarters for a brand design company.

The Engine Room is in the middle of a Grand Designs-style building project as it converts York Mills, on York Road in Mirfield, into offices.

Directors Lesley Gulliver and Darren Evans bought the building, which dates back to the 19th Century, for £225,000 in January 2017. The building has undergone a number of incarnations in the past. As well as a piggery, it has also been a textile mill and a confectionery warehouse.

The company received £20,000 grant funding through the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership’s Business Growth Programme towards the total £100,000 cost of the build and refurbishment.

The site included a number of derelict out-buildings, which have been knocked down to create car parking spaces, and a cottage which is rented out by the company.

The Engine Room will take over the top floor of the 4,000 sq ft main building. Creative businesses will be able to rent space downstairs. An adjacent car port will be turned into the main reception.

Mrs Gulliver said: “We’ve absolutely maxed ourselves out as a business but in terms of our growth it will be brilliant and an inspiring place for the designers to work.”

The Engine Room, which employs six people and plans to appoint a further two following the move, was launched 17 years ago.

The Huddersfield-based firm works across all sectors in the UK and the US for clients including global medical technology company Becton Dickinson, Xercise4Less and Sandwich King.

The move coincides with a shift towards pure branding. Mr Evans said: “In the past we have done some wider marketing stuff but now we’re focusing on brand identity.”

A turning point for the company came in early 2017 when it won a national Design Effectiveness Award for its work with manufacturer Polyseam. Mrs Gulliver said: “We were surrounded by some of the country’s biggest brand agencies and we won our category plus the overall award of the night.

“It feels like now’s the right time to really step forward. It’s a massively frightening leap of faith but we are maturing as a business. Just because we’re based in Huddersfield, doesn’t mean we can’t compete on a national stage and buy our own premises. This is an investment for the future.”

The renovation, which will take about six months, aims to blend the old and new. “We’re trying to use as many of the materials that have been ripped out as possible,” Mr Evans said. “One of the doors we’ve taken out will be used as a boardroom table and beams from the buildings that have been knocked down will be used to mark out parking spaces. We don’t want to create something that looks like it was all built last week. We want to keep that element of history.”


York Mills once belonged to the Ingham family who lived at nearby Blake Hall in Mirfield.

In 1821, the buildings were part of a larger estate which included textile warehouses used by businessman Joshua Ingham.

Other buildings included a large barn, several stables, a cow shed and cart sheds.

The building being renovated by the Engine Room is believed to have been used as a piggery.

Anne Brontë was the governess to the Ingham children at Blake Hall in Mirfield. She used her experiences there in her novel Agnes Grey.