Wednesday, 23 October 2013


This page is about some more curious buildings each with a story to tell.





The trainspotter’s dream

A fine castellated building at Clayton near Brighton in Sussex, is not all that it seems to be.   This unusual Gothic style home, a Grade 11 listed building, with its castellated façade, was built in 1836 by the London and Brighton Railway Company, over the entrance to Clayton Tunnel, to house a railway policeman come signalman.   This detached Victorian residence comes complete with three bedrooms, a bathroom in one turret and a kitchen in the other; and a garden with ghostly stories of railway victims roaming therein.    Who lives in a house like this?
The Tunnel House
Unusual building plot
Another house built over the entrance to a railway tunnel can be seen just outside the station at Whatstandwell in Derbyshire. This time it is a modern house which one wonders why it would be built on such and unusual plot.
The  Navvies’  Monument
A stark monument, in the shape of a Gothic tunnel entrance alongside the churchyard at Otley in West Yorkshire, tells us that :
‘ The Leeds and Thirsk Railway was promoted to provide a new route from Leeds to the north and on to Scotland.  Having been given Royal assent on 21st July 1845, practical construction work commenced in 1846, the contractor James Bray, facing considerable technical problems in crossing the hills and valleys along the route.  The greatest challenge was to cut the Bramhope tunnel 25ft high through 2 miles 243 yards of rock at depths up to 290ft.  Some 2,300 men and 400 horses were involved in the work, all being subject to sudden falls of rock, subsidence, flooding and accidental death.  One victim, James Myers of Yeadon, had the following lines inscribed on his gravestone :
‘ What dangers do surround
Poor miners everywhere
And they labour underground
Thay should be men of prayer.’
This monument to those who died in the construction of the tunnel is based upon its northern portal, originally constructed in Caen Stone, it was first restored in 1913 by the North Eastern Railway Co. and again under the auspices of Otley Town Council and British Rail in 1988.’
The miners buried beneath the monument,  23 in all, are named.
This railway is still in use today and the above mentioned northern portal can still be seen and also the very fine viaduct which carries to the railway away from the tunnel across Wharfedale.

The Navvies Monument
The tunnel entrance and the viaduct

Whitebait Island house

Ynys Gored Goch or Red Weir Island, also known as Whitebait Island, is a very tiny island in the Menai Strait, situated in an area called The Swells between Telford's Suspension Bridge and Stephenson's Britannia Bridge and accessible only by boat. There is just one house on the island dating back to 1590 the location of a former fisherman's house and smoke house. In 1888 it became just a private house but mains water and electricity was only installed in 1997. A pumping system prevents flooding.
Island House
The house that moved
A very fine timber-framed house dating from c1430 can be seen alongside the inner by-pass at the foot of the quaint Stepcote Hill at Exeter in Devon, but prior to 1961 you would have been able to see the same house in what was Edmund Street some 50 yards away.  At that time this rare merchant’s house stood in the way of the new road and the city council planned to demolish it along with other properties in the area.    Fortunately conservationists had other ideas and a preservation order was enforced.  A government grant enabled the house to be moved in one piece to its present site.   This very delicate operation was achieved by encasing the house in a wooden packing case frame and then lifting it onto a timber wheeled chassis before transporting the complete building to its present position, an amazing feat.  The house was then fully restored and is now a fine Tudor dwelling and antique shop, known as the house that moved.

The House that moved



It  fell  into  the  sea


Local fishing entrepreneur George Alderson Smith was very ambitious when he built his fine house on the cliff top near  Scarborough in North Yorkshire in 1880 despite being advised against building at this spot.   Smith insisted that he wanted a fine house for his lifetime and he didn’t care if it fell down after he was gone.   Other houses were subsequently built nearby away from the cliff edge and the area became known as  Holbeck. 

Almost 100 years later, Smith’s house became a popular 4 star hotel,  The Holbeck Hall Hotel.   Early in 1992 local residents became alarmed when some cracks were noted some 70 metres apart on a footpath, but they were quickly repaired and it appeared that there was no cause for alarm.   However, on June 2nd  events started to move very quickly indeed when extensive movement appeared around the previously noted cracks and especially in the grounds of the hotel.   Because the hotel , although the nearest building to the cliff edge, was some 50 metres away, it was not taken too seriously by the management.   Then on the evening of June 3rd the garden of the hotel had sunk four feet, and when further movement occurred early the next morning, things became very serious indeed.  Suddenly there was rapid movement resulting in an estimated one million tonnes of cliff material slipping over 100 metres onto the beach below, taking 40% of the hotel with it.   The slip was 100 metres wide and 250 metres from back to toe.   The remaining parts of the hotel were subsequently demolished and fortunately no other buildings in the area were affected.

The following year the area was stabilised at a cost of £2,000,000.  30,000 tonnes of rock was used for a new sea defence and the area of the landslip was landscaped.


The following year the area was stabilised at a cost of £2,000,000.  30,000 tonnes of rock was used for a new sea defence and the area of the landslip was landscaped.

Selkirk cottage

A very fine statue is to be seen above the doorway of this small cottage in Main Street, Lower Fargo in Fife. An inscription reads : ‘ In memory of Alexander Selkirk, mariner, the original Robinson Crusoe, who lived on the island of Juan Fernandez in complete solitude for four years & four months. He died in 1723, Lt. Of HMS Weymouth, aged 47 years.’ Selkirk was born in the cottage in 1676. In 1694 he was employed as sailing master on board ship bound for the south seas. Due to dissension between the Captain and crew and a feeling that the boat was not seaworthy, Selkirk asked to be put ashore and was marooned with just his basic belongings. His story inspired Daniel Defoe to write his celebrated book, Robinson Crusoe.
Selkirk Cottage


The Snuff Cottage


An old cottage in the delightful village of Culross in Fife was formerly the Snuffmaker’s House and bears the humorous inscription:

‘Wha wad ha' thocht it, noses wad ha' bocht it.’


Snuff Cottage



The Picture House


The ‘Picture House’ is situated down a country lane near to the village of Bricket Wood in Hertfordshire.   This secluded house, probably Victorian, has many pictures on the outside walls, in red relief on panels, depicting a variety of sporting scenes.

The Picture House


House in the rock


The house in the rock at Knaresborough in North Yorkshire was partly excavated from a rocky crag overlooking the River Nidd by a linen weaver, Thomas Hill and his son between 1770 and 1791. The house has four rooms, one on top of the other and was originally known as Fort Montague when the castellations were added. It was once  a popular tourist attraction but

became a purely private dwelling in 2000.

House in the rock

The Typsy Lintel
Very much self explanatory but no longer a tea room


The Typsy Lintel

The Lantern House


An unusual house situated at the roadside just outside Badby in Northamptonshire may have been a gate-house or a toll-house.   This tiny early 19th century building is known locally as ‘The Lantern House’ because of its distinct shape.   It has been recently restored as a dwelling.


 The Lantern House



Lord’s cricket ground  is now recognised as the headquarters of cricket.   Thomas Lord was born in Kirkgate in the tiny North Yorkshire town of Thirsk in 1755, the son of a labourer.  When the family moved to Norfolk, young Thomas became a useful cricketer and subsequently found work at the White Conduit Cricket Club in Islington.  Lord was soon given the task of finding a better ground for the club and he eventually obtained the lease of some land which became known as ‘Lord’s’, and the club changed its name to The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC),  This land was subsequently sold for development and after a move to Regents Park, Lord eventually established the club at its present home in St John’s Wood in 1814.  Lord died in 1832.  
A commemorative plaque marks this cottage where he was born and now houses Thirsk Museum.


Lord's cottage

Paisley Court

The sculpture of a boys head and scroll over the entrance to Paisley Court, High Street, Edinburgh, tells a poignant story. The scroll reads, ‘Heave awa chaps, I’m no dead yet.’ And relates to the fact that when the original house fell in 1861, the boy was the sole survivor.

Paisley Court

The Piece Hall

This unique ‘cloth hall’ is the last of those which graced many towns in the West Riding of Yorkshire and only narrowly avoided demolition in 1972 by just one vote by Halifax Council. This fine building was built in the centre of Halifax in 1779 at a time when the textile industry was growing at a rapid rate, and provided 350 rooms, each 30 yards long, where merchants stored their ‘pieces’ of cloth, hence the building’s name. Strong classical themes were used in its design with pillars supporting arches on the ground floor; square rustic columns above and topped by Doris columns, around the four sides of a central square. Restored in the 1970’s the building now houses a variety of shops and galleries, whilst the courtyard hosts markets and the like.

The Piece Hall

The Yorkshire Penny Bank

In  1859 the West Riding Penny Savings Bank was opened in Leeds. Following its success in the West Riding of Yorkshire, the bank was extended with branches being opened in the other Ridings and its name was changed to the Yorkshire Penny Bank. It became the Yorkshire Bank in 1959,
the name which remains today with many branches being maintained in the original buildings.

The Yorkshire Bank at Hull

Sally Lunn's House

Sally Lunn


In 1680 a Hugeunot girl refugee called Soli Luyan, later Sally Lunn, arrived in  Bath and found employment with a baker in Lilliput Alley. She told the baker about the French brioche type of bread or buns which were to become famous and forever associated with her name. This light and delicious bun soon became popular at afternoon tea’s which were part of Bath’s tradition.

The baker’s premises are still there and said to be the oldest building in the city, probably dating back as far as AD200.

Sally’s kitchen and contents, in use up to the late 19th century. is still preserved in the cellar  where it can be visited.  Present day Sally Lunn’s can also be enjoyed in the refreshment rooms above, indeed the rich round buns are still made in a modern bakery on the second floor.

Sally’s original recipe was found in a secret cupboard in the 1930’s and is passed with the deeds to the building.

Sally Lunn's

The original kitchen

No comments: