WHEN Keighley textile magnate James Lund re-built Malsis Hall in 1866, no expense was spared on his Victorian grand design.
Constructed from ashlar stone with an impressive belvedere tower and Italianate detailing, it was a statement mansion that required the skills of the very best craftsmen. Among them was Arthur Greenwood.
Arthur’s decorative plasterwork remains intact and that’s thanks in no small part to subsequent generations of his family who have helped maintain the hall the past 146 years.
Though the property, near Cross Hills, has seen many changes and survived two world wars, the Greenwoods have been a constant feature.
Between them, they have clocked up almost a century and a half of service, first to the Lund family and later to the school that took over the building in 1920.
The latest is Andrew, 49, who is the estates manager and Jack of all trades, including plumbing, joinery and painting.
Marcus Peel, headmaster of Malsis prep school, said: “The Greenwoods have been an integral part of Malsis for so long now and we are lucky enough to have Andrew as the latest generation of the family.
“He is the heart and soul of Malsis and is intensely proud of the family tradition here. Nothing is too much trouble for him and he lives and breathes the place.”
Andrew began helping his father Cedric out at the school when he was 14 and later became part of the team there.
“My father was head of maintenance and after serving my time as a plumber I worked in the joinery department. There were six of us looking after the house and grounds back then but now it’s just me and a groundsman, so I do everything that’s needed from changing a lightbulb to making new windows and unblocking drains.”
It is a considerable task. Set in over 40 acres dotted with dens, trees to climb and a stream to dam, the independent co-ed day and boarding school prides itself on providing the perfect location for an idyllic childhood full of adventure and learning. It also boasts a treehouse and its own hens.
The historic house is vast and is grade two listed with classrooms, kitchens and boarding facilities for its pupils and staff.
“I feel we Greenwoods are guardians of this wonderful Malsis building and estate. I grew up watching my father working here, just as he grew up watching his father John working here too,” said Andrew.
“Meanwhile, my great-great grandfather Arthur created the plasterwork in the hall and the headteacher’s study. This family tradition gives me such pride and makes every working day a joy rather than a chore. It gives me the chance to preserve and enhance the work of my family and ensure that it will last for the generations to come.”
The stunning heraldic panels which greet visitors in the entrance hall are a classic example of this heritage.
They were created by Cedric, a painter and decorator and gifted amateur artist, who was known as “the Michaelangelo of Malsis.” His work features all over the building.
“It is quite breathtaking and he really enjoyed doing it. He even decorated the children’s rooms with murals of Disney characters.
“Whenever I climb up to the ceiling to do some minor restoration of the panels, I feel my dad looking over me. They were painted by him more than 35 years ago. I can’t do it as well as he did but we have to keep on top of it. It’s a wonderful piece of work.
“When I’m up there I feel him keeping his beady eye on me,” said Andrew.
Cedric, now 79, who suffered a serious fall from scaffolding in his 60s, is too poorly to help.
“I’m very proud of what he did and the quality of the work he has left,” said Andrew.
“I also feel very lucky to be here. It’s a beautiful place to work.”
Meanwhile, Jack, Andrew’s 16-year-old son is now training to be a joiner, which could come in very useful at Malsis in the years to come. He already helps out with odd jobs at the school, so it looks as though the Greenwood tradition at Malsis could stretch into another generation.
• Malsis Hall was built by James Lund, the son of a Keighley worsted manufacturer.
The previous dilapidated hall came into his possession after he married the owner’s daughter Mary Sarah Spencer in 1852 and then inherited his own father’s wealth.
In 1861, James took over the Malsis estate, and rebuilt the landmark property, which was completed in 1866. He also erected Lund’s tower at Sutton Crag to mark his daughter Ethel’s 21st birthday.
He lived at the hall until his death in 1901. It became Malsis prep school in 1920.
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