THE Grade II* listed former Red House museum could undergo a major refurbishment to become luxury holiday accommodation. 

Kirklees Council has published a proposal which asks Cabinet members to invest £600,000 in the Gomersal site, to bring the historic house and neighbouring cart shed back into use.

Dating back to 1660, the house and grounds are seen as an important heritage asset because of their association with local Luddite activities and the Taylor family, particularly Mary Taylor, a writer and early feminist. 

They are also revered by Bronte fans, as Charlotte was a regular guest at the house, and gave it a starring role as ‘Briarmains’ in her novel, Shirley. Prior to its closure in 2016, Red House operated as a community museum, but visitor numbers and increasing costs made the site unviable. 

The decision to allow the property to be marketed for private sale prompted a petition from Red House Heritage Group in 2019, which resulted in the Council’s Cabinet agreeing to explore alternative uses for the site which could maintain it in public hands.

The new approach proposes the house is refurbished to the highest standards to appeal to the luxury tourism market. 

If agreed, the house would accommodate10 guests, and, once the business is established, people may also be able to get married in the house during their stay. 

The cart shed would be split into four self-catering apartments, with broader appeal to both leisure and business travellers. 

There are no proposals to include the barn in the commercial operation of the site, so this could be retained for community use. 

It’s also proposed that the commercial operation is suspended for a number of days and weekends each year, so people can still have access to the site to enjoy pre-planned community activities and events.

Colin Parr, Strategic Director for Environment & Climate Change, said: “The proposal detailed in the report will allow the Council to retain the property in public ownership without incurring huge operating costs. 

“We have looked at the example set by the National Trust and the Landmark Trust, who both renovate heritage buildings to let as holiday cottages as a way of sustaining them, and we are confident that this could be a business model that works for the Council too.”

The Red House Yorkshire Heritage Trust said: "Our group’s priority remains that this important heritage site is respected and protected in public or community hands. We recognise that for this to happen, there must be an appropriate, sympathetic and financially viable use for the site, so while we certainly welcome the investment, we remain open-minded about the Council’s new approach.

"From conversations we have had with the Council, we are pleased that they recognise that our views on the future of Red House are important.  We have been assured that although this proposal does have a commercial focus, there is a commitment to ensuring our local community can also access the site over a number of open weekends and specially-curated events throughout the year which pay homage to its outstanding heritage credentials.  

"The Council have also assured us that as the barn will not be a part of the new commercial activity there could be scope for community and heritage activities to be based there in the future.      

"We look forward to being consulted as the project progresses and to celebrating the heritage of the site and facilitating access for the benefit of the local and wider community."