Multi-million plan to convert 'hidden jewel' of Harrogate

A new multi-million pound plan to save one of Harrogate's most historic buildings has been unveiled.

Part of the stunning interiors of the historic Grove House.

Such are the developers fears over possible deterioration and vandalism at Grove House on Skipton Road, they have already introduced extra security at Harrogate's "hidden jewel."

After receiving a ceremonial flag this week from previous owners charity group RAOB, Springfield Health Care group's chief executive Graeme Lee said the aim wasn't just to develop the Grade II listed building and its extensive grounds for high quality retirement apartments and a separate luxury care home for the elderly, respectively.

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He said the developers were conscious of the need to safeguard this remarkable property's heritage from the days when it was the private home of legendary 19th century Harrogate mayor Samson Fox to more recent times when the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes had turned it into an orphanage and convalescent home.

Outside Grove House - The chief executive of Springfield Health Care Graeme Lee with Keith Illingworth, the Grand Primo of RAOB. (17102332AM9)

And they are also hopeful of finding Fox's fabled 'secret laboratory' where he worked on his pioneering industrial inventions when he made Grove House his home.

Graeme Lee said: "We not only want to create top of the range facilities in this unique setting, we want to maintain the site's tradition of caring for people which the RAOB established over many years.

"We're working closely with English Heritage and local planners to convert it in an appropriate way.

"Not everyone in Harrogate knows about it. We want to bring this wonderful building back to life.

Outside Grove House - The chief executive of Springfield Health Care Graeme Lee with Keith Illingworth, the Grand Primo of RAOB. (17102332AM9)

"We want it to continue to have close links to Grove Road Primary School and Grove Academy,"

The developers, who recently turned the art deco former headquarters of Terrys's Chocolate in York into a £7 million flagship care village, hope to make an application for planning permission within two or three months and then start work on the ambitious project in September 2018 if all goes well.

The intention in converting the stunning main building, which had been the national headquarters of charity RAOB from 1926 to 2017, was to preserve some of its most beautiful features: the grand hall, the stained glass windows and the reception desk.

They have also agreed to keep and display part of the RAOB's huge collection of historic memorabilia and paintings and have issued an open invitation to members to visit any time after the work is completed.

The RAOB's Grand Primo Keith Illingworth, who was present for an emotional handover at Grove House to the new owners on Monday lunchtime along with members from as far afield as South Africa, said the organisation was pleased their former home would be in safe hands.

He said: "It's a sad day for the RAOB but we're pleased to know Grove House has a future.

"From what we've been told, the development will be sympathetic to the building's traditions.

"It's good to think it will be restored to its former glory."

The prospect of discovering Samson Fox's long-lost basement laboratory, first raised by Harrogate historian Malcolm Neesam, is also something the developers seem to be relishing.

Graeme Lee said: "I would love it to be found. We have been checking but haven't come across it in the main building.

"We're beginning to think it wasn't in the main part of Grove House itself. Why would Samson Fox experiment with gas right below where he lived?

"Also, a few of the original plans seem to lead nowhere."