In their “Vision and Strategic Objectives” outlined in the LDF Core Strategy, planners promised to retain the characteristics of Kirklees which make it attractive. This involved, among other issues, safeguarding the “distinctive and contrasting landscapes and legacy of historic buildings within and around Kirklees’ towns and villages.
So much for promises. The historic landscape from the Three Nuns to Hartshead and Roberttown has been earmarked for the biggest industrial development in West Yorkshire; totally ignoring its beauty and its close proximity to Robin Hood’s grave, the ruins of Kirklees Priory, the historic Armytage Estate, the Luddite heritage footpath, and Roe Head (now Hollybank school) the school to which all three Brontë sisters attended and at which Charlotte Brontë taught. And totally ignoring the seven presentations put forward last November to the extraordinary meeting of Kirklees Council.
And then we had the unbelievable threat to the only museum in the Spen Valley! The Red House Museum is a very precious and iconic building.
Built in 1660 by a typical entrepreneurial Spen clothier, William Taylor, it is now actually furnished in the style of the 1830’s when Joshua and Anne Taylor regularly enjoyed the company of their daughter Mary’s friend Charlotte Brontë. The house has a charming homely feel to it and is so authentic that visitors can easily imagine Charlotte Brontë mingling with the Taylor family whom she loved.
She said it was a happy house, full of laughter. And many visitors have felt this; almost 30,000 last year alone. They come to wander round the house and garden and the outbuildings which can absorb them for an afternoon. The cart-shed houses a unique history of the Spen Valley, painstakingly collected over many years. The barn has a wonderful exhibition dedicated to Charlotte Brontë’s book Shirley, based around the Luddite story.
Visitors come from schools, colleges and universities and from locally and far afield. It is well and truly on the Brontë trail for national and international enthusiasts. They all receive a warm welcome from the dedicated staff. What a tourist destination!
Most of all it is one of the most important buildings which make up the Spen Valley’s heritage. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to work out that this solution to saving money was a no-brainer.
Charlotte Brontë had another lifelong friend whom she met at Roe Head school – Ellen Nussey who lived near Birstall Smithies crossroads. Her home was the inspiration for Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre. This is now swamped by a paint manufacturer’s. We cannot go on losing our heritage. And why was North Kirklees being targeted in this way?