Neglected country house could be turned into modern houses and apartments

Ambitious new plans have been submitted to convert a neglected country estate house into modern houses and apartments.

Friday, 31st January 2020, 9:43 am

Grade-I-listed Ledston Hall, in the village of Ledston just north of Castleford, dates back more than 700 years but has stood mainly empty for the past 65 years.

The building is held in a charitable trust by the Wheler Foundation, which was set up following the death of its last incumbent, Granville Wheler, in 2005.

Now plans have been submitted to Leeds City Council by the Wheler Foundation to convert the hall into four houses, all of which would be set over three floors, and five apartments set over either one or two floors.

The houses would have three or four bedrooms, with the apartments having two or three.

There would also be a caretaker’s apartment, while the basement is being earmarked for storage.

In recent years Ledston Hall has made it onto Heritage England’s ‘at-risk’ register, meaning there are major concerns over the hall unless plans were made to secure its future.

The Wheler Foundation’s application reads: “Only 2.5 per cent of listed buildings are listed Grade I, placing Ledston amongst the finest historic buildings in the country.

“The building has suffered as a result of vacancy and neglect in recent years, harming its aesthetic significance.

“There is also a danger that important historic fabric is being lost.

“While it should be commended that much has been done to repair the cause of much of the damage, continuing infestation and existing damage renders much of the hall uninhabitable.

“The proposals will lead to the loss of historic fabric, mostly relating to the installation of new stairs and lift shafts.

“The insertion of the lift shafts will cause a degree of harm.

“However this will amount to less than substantial harm when considering the amount of historic fabric that is being retained and repaired.

“It is considered that repair and conservation of the hall far outweighs this harm.”

The plans are not the first set to be submitted to convert the old hall, with planning permission granted for a residential redevelopment of the hall in 2015.

The application has since lapsed, however, it did garner the support of English Heritage who felt it would continue to deteriorate unless action was taken.

Set in 1,235 hectares of land, the huge house is U-shaped and made of magnesian limestone.

The earliest known use of the hall site was as a monastic grange, with the oldest existing fabric dating back to 1235, which includes the remains of the chapel and the kitchen in the north-west corner of the hall.

Additions and alterations were made in the 1500s, when the priory at Pontefract and its adjoining lands were surrendered to King Henry VIII who then leased it to tenants.

It was then acquired by wealthy landowners, the Witham family, before being sold to the Earl of Stafford, Thomas Wentworth, in 1631 and then passed into the ownership of Sir John Lewis 22 years later. During these periods the house was extended extensively.

The Wheler family took up residence at the turn of the 20th century and some alterations associated with the use of the building as a school took place in the mid 20th century.

This use ceased in 1954 and was followed by the refurbishment of the south wing in 1966 to provide apartments, which continue to be inhabited.

However, the hall has largely been vacant since.

A decision on the conversion plans will be made at a later date by Leeds City Council.