Grade II listed Exley Hall has some of the best preserved mullions and one of the biggest inglenook fireplaces in the district... and that’s no idle boast, according to owners Bruce and Judith Wood.
The couple have certainly done their research when it comes to the history of this property.
“The only fireplaces of a comparable size which we have found are at East Riddlesden Hall in the main hall, and at Wycoller in the ruined hall which was used by Charlotte Bronte as her model for Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre,” says Bruce.
Bruce and Judith have lived at Exley Hall for almost nine years.
“I happened to spot a photograph of the house with its four sets of mullion windows. Judith had always wanted mullions, so I took the picture home and said that this looked like the house for us.
“We came down twice to have a look. The first time, it was overcast and raining and we thought it was a little dark inside. The next time, the sun was shining and it looked lovely and light. You are swapping a little bit of natural light for character.”
When the couple bought the house, it was technically two properties, but being lived in as one. There are no solid walls between the properties, but it would be a simple matter to reinstate them if the new owners were looking for somewhere with room for a dependent relative.
“The previous owners had lived there for nearly 20 years, so it was in a good condition, and the conservatory and garage were already there,” says Bruce. “All we’ve had to do was put in a new kitchen, a new main bathroom with whirlpool bath, and within the last few months we’ve redone the second bathroom, re-carpeted throughout and done some work on the decor. We’ve also had two new boilers put in.”
After the couple took up residence, they were given a copy of Oakbank History Trail, produced by Oakbank School in 1982.
“It has some nice pictures of our house and it gave us a starting point to look out some academic articles. Gradually we were able to piece together some of the history, although, sadly, little is known.
“We did discover that the manor Exley Head was sold in around 1572 for just £240, but it’s been occupied for almost 600 years and in the sitting room there’s a dated carved in the stone, possibly reading 1411.
“It’s probably the oldest house in Keighley. There was a manor here in 1438, and over the years it has been known as a manor, a hall and Low Fold – the name used through much of the 20th century when it was a farmhouse.
“By 1800 it had been divided into cottages and wasn’t turned back into a single dwelling until 2003, although there are still two separate heating and electrical systems. Another legacy is we still have three separate back doors,” Bruce says.
“One day we found a crowd of people from Bingley Local History Group outside. They asked if they could go round the back and see the best of the mullions. So we said ‘of course’, but it was easier if they came through the house. After that, we joined the local history group and put all the details together.”
Today, Exley Hall has five bedrooms and combines traditional period features like the inglenook fireplace and beamed ceilings, with a range of modern fixtures and fittings, including the kitchen, conservatory and bathroom.
“My favourite room is the sitting room, with the big fireplace,” says Bruce. “We do a lot of entertaining – last week we had 50 people round for a ploughman’s lunch to raise money for the local church – and it’s just such a welcoming space. I also like the conservatory; although it gets a lot of sun, it doesn’t get so hot that you need blinds.
“I’m going to miss the location – just ten minutes walk into Keighley, or there are buses every few minutes.”
The gardens are modest in size but perfectly adequate for sitting out with a chilled drink on a summer’s evening.
“We also have a small field. It isn’t part of the property, but Bradford Council allows us to use it as an allotment, and in return we look after some of the upkeep of the flower beds at their Family Centre. It’s quite advantageous, because the Council comes round and mows it every fortnight, and I’m sure they would allow the new owner to continue using the land.
“The garden may not be very large, but we have some interesting plants like a quince, and the magnolia is just about to burst forth. My wife is a keen gardener, so it’s in good condition.
“The house is too big for us now. It’s crying out for a family with children to enjoy living here.”
Exley Hall in Exley Road, Exley Head, Keighley, is on the market for £275,000 with McManus & Poole, Keighley, telephone (01535) 603747.