Bracken Hall is an important part of Shipley Glen’s heritage and is imprinted on the memories of many Bradfordians. The handsome Edwardian house occupies a prime position overlooking the beauty spot and over the years it has served as gentleman’s residence, a cafe and a council-owned countryside centre.
When Bradford Council decided it could no longer fund the educational facility there was uproar and the fight to save it seemed doomed until local couple Sally and Stuart Illingworth stepped in with a solution. They offered to buy the property so they could turn the main house into a luxury B&B and suggested that the countryside centre downsize into an existing side extension.
A band of volunteers now runs the centre, which is open on weekends and for school visits. The Illingworths let it on a peppercorn rent so that it remains viable.
“School parties often visit during the week for children to learn about the natural world and the special habitats found around Bracken Hall. We are proud to have helped save the countryside centre from total closure,” says Sally.
The deal, which went through in December 2014, also allowed the couple to create a multi-generational, live-work homestead.
Stuart grew up in the family farm that sits directly behind Bracken Hall and his mother was concerned that the farmhouse was getting too big for her. Meanwhile, Sally, a former food product developer, was keen to find a job that gave her flexibility to be on hand for her children, Francesca, 10, and Jack, seven.
“We decided to convert a small barn in the farmyard for Stuart’s mum and renovate the farmhouse as our family home. We also had to renovate Bracken Hall House and turn it into a B&B, so it was a massive undertaking,” she says.
The reward is that the venture has been a huge success. The guest house has been a big hit with everyone from tourists and business people to golfers and has five-star reviews. Plus Sally now has to walk only a few steps to work.
The project took more than two years. Stuart, a surveyor, has his own business to run so Sally project managed the work during the day.
When the contractors had gone and the children were tucked up in bed, the couple began a night shift.
“We are both quite handy and doing some of the work ourselves helped us keep to our budget,” says Sally.
The total spend on Bracken Hall was £150,000. The property was in a poor state and converting it to a B&B was expensive as the Illingworths wanted to make sure it functioned properly for guests. A damp course, replastering, new plumbing, electrics, fire doors and two boilers ramped up the cost.
An exhibition space reverted back to a cosy drawing room and the boarded-up fireplace was brought back to life with a new surround painted by Sally.
The adjacent front room is now a dining area. An old office and store room have been combined to make a smart new kitchen with units from Howdens and another office has been converted into a ground-floor bedroom.
All the bedrooms have a theme and this one is Glenrock, named after the Limousin herd of cows which was started by Stuart’s father at Bracken Hall Farm. They are now bred by Stuart’s brother Stephen Illingworth at his farm in Scotland. Stephen recently set a Limousin world record price after selling a maiden heifer, Glenrock Illusion, for £131,500.
Elsewhere, the Arts and Crafts staircase, which was covered with ply, has been restored and what used to be a first-floor flat for the centre manager has been reconfigured to make four en-suite rooms, each named after the view from the window.
They include the Glen, featuring purple to reflect the summer heather, while Moor View includes the burnt orange and reds of autumn bracken. Almost every room has a picture by Saltaire-based artist Jacky Al-Samarraie. The contemporary prints are inspired by local landmarks and countryside.
Furniture includes vintage finds, such as the chairs and dresser, which Sally painted with Annie Sloan chalk paint, and some bargain ex-display items from Roomers in Otley. The tables were made by a local joiner.
Robust new buys including the beds and Hypnos mattresses bought for their comfort and style and all the soft furnishings are in Prestigious Textiles fabrics made up by the Design Mill in Bingley.
There are also reminders of the property’s heritage, including photographs of Shipley Glen in its heyday when it served as an escape from the mills and the polluted city air.
Illustrations detailing the flora and fauna of the moor and glen by botanist, author and illustrator Mari Friend are reminders of the biodiversity of the area.
She and her husband John bought Bracken Hall in 1980 and created the countryside centre before selling it to Bradford City Council in 1986.
Their legacy continues and the B&B is introducing more people to the beauty on Bradford’s doorstep.
Sally says: “All our guests remark on how lovely it is up here. It is a very special place.”
Bracken Hall House B&B, Glen Road, Baildon, is also available for business breakfasts and lunches. brackenhallhouse.co.uk
Prestigious Textiles, prestigious.co.uk
The Design Mill, Bingley, the-designmill.co.uk
Pictures and placemats by Jacky Al-Samarraie at theartrooms.co.uk in Salts Mill, Saltaire, and also sold through John Lewis
Architect, Richard Dawson, rdawsonarchitect.co.uk
Annie Sloan chalk paint and workshops, My Vibrant Home, Saltaire, my-vibrant-home.co.uk
Flooring, beds and Hypnos mattresses, Killips, Shipley, killips.co.uk
Vintage, second hand and ex-display furniture, Roomers, New Inn Court, Otley
Carpets and acoustic underlay from Calvert Carpets in Thirsk, calverts-carpets.co.uk