Return to the pre-industrial past with an Arts and Crafts house

If you ever feel sick of modern life – its fast pace, superficiality and general lack of what might be termed “soul” – then it may be of some consolation to know that you belong to a long tradition of such sceptics, and some of them built some of our loveliest houses.

By John Grainger
Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 10:09 am
Coverdale House, Coverdale Drive, Knaresborough - £1.25m with Verity Frearson, 01423 562531.
Coverdale House, Coverdale Drive, Knaresborough - £1.25m with Verity Frearson, 01423 562531.

Ever since the world started speeding up with the advent of industrialisation, dissenters have been calling for a return to the old ways, and in the world of architecture, they instigated the Arts and Crafts movement. This started in England in the 19th century and was inspired by art critic John Ruskin, who was concerned by the monotony of mass production, which he felt deskilled workers and deadened creativity. Instead, he wanted a return to craftsmanship and ornament, rooted in the medieval past.

Designer and poet William Morris put these ideas into practice within the home, with furnishings and artefacts, but the trend was adopted by architects too, and their Arts and Crafts buildings tend to be asymmetrical, built with clear lines using traditional construction methods, and are exemplars of craftsmanship.

Although the movement lost its edge around the end of the 19th century, houses were still being built to designs inspired by the aesthetic well into the 20th century.

20 Stray Walk, Harrogate - offers over £800,000 with Verity Frearson, 01423 562531.

Nostalgists like Ruskin and Morris may have been fighting a losing battle, but their rearguard action against modernity has undeniably left an indelible mark on our townscapes. As a result, there are plenty of Arts and Crafts properties in our area – especially in Harrogate, around the Duchy estate and south of the Stray – and even more, many of them built recently, that emulate the style if not the spirit.

The following three homes are all inspired by the movement, and are all currently for sale.

Coverdale House, a six-bedroom detached property in large gardens on the edge of Knaresborough, is a fine example. The herringbone brickwork of the porch and towering chimneys are typical, and the feast of features continues inside, with wood panelling and leaded windows. But the undisputed jewels in the crown are the unique “Mouseman” double entrance doors and an interior door, which were made by Robert Thompson’s Craftsman Ltd, of Kilburn, over 30 years ago.

In Harrogate, 20 Stray Walk displays the asymmetrical profile and half-timbered exterior so beloved of those medievalist Arts and Crafts architects. It has four bedrooms, a house bathroom, loft, kitchen, three reception rooms, integral single garage and gardens to the front and back.

4 Wheatlands Road, Harrogate - £725,000 with FSS, 01423 501211.

Finally, 4 Wheatlands Road is a semi-detached house off Leeds Road in Harrogate, and is included here because of its half-timbering and leaded windows, which both became popular directly because of the Arts and Crafts movement. It has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, two reception rooms, and a garage which has been converted into a store to the front and gym/office to the rear. There are also gardens to the front and back, plus off-street parking.