History of Elmet Farmhouse
Elmet Resurrected – A 300 year old Yorkshire farmstead brought back to life
Elmet Farmhouse (Wilcroft Farm) in Pecket Well near Hebden Bridge is a Grade II Listed 18th-century farmstead dating from c.1728. The original owner would have been a Yeoman Clothier, an independent farmer who earned his living partly from agriculture and partly from textiles.
Woollen cloth, known as kersey, would have been woven on handlooms in the farmhouse during the 18th century. The distinctive rows of stone mullion windows were designed to maximise the amount of light. Long lengths of cloth, known as ‘pieces’, would have been transported to Halifax by packhorse to be sold at the weekly cloth market. The local textile industry was so successful that a magnificent new cloth hall – the Piece Hall – was built in Halifax in 1779.
For most of its history, Wilcroft Farm was a small dairy farm consisting of 22 acres, with around half the land used for grazing (pasture) and the rest for hay meadows. Some oats and root crops were also grown, the latter as animal fodder. A new barn was built in 1861. As well as providing storage for the hay (the main source of winter feed for the cattle), the barn housed a mistal (cowshed) with stalls where the cows were milked. Pigs were also reared on farm, and, later, chickens for eggs.
From the 1830s Wilcroft Farm was owned by a Yeoman called William Bancroft, who ran the farm with his family for around 30 years. In 1858 he sold the estate to the Pecket Well Weaving Shed Company, who built Pecket Well Mill across the road. The farmhouse was later divided into two dwellings, with the farm being run by tenants who lived in half the building. Champion Crabtree, a farmer and carter, took on the tenancy during the 1860s, succeeded by his son Ellis Crabtree, who ran the farm from 1905 until the late 1950s. It remained a working farm for several decades, but farming activities dwindled during the 1990s and the buildings fell into disrepair.
Following the sale of Wilcroft Farm in 2012, the farmhouse was completely renovated. In 2014 it took on a new lease of life as Elmet Farmhouse holiday cottage. Great care was taken during the restoration to preserve the original fabric of the building so that its architectural merits could be fully appreciated. The roof was repaired using reclaimed stone slates and the walls were re-pointed with traditional lime mortar, enabling the stone to breathe and dry out. New hardwood frames were inserted in the stone mullion windows and custom-made doors were fitted. Original features which came to light during the restoration, such as the carved stone fireplaces, stone window surrounds and window seats, were all carefully renovated.
Wherever possible existing materials were reused, adding to the building’s mellow charm. A new hearth was created in the living room from a massive stone flag excavated from the kitchen floor, and the back of the fireplace was faced with huge blocks of stone from the wall of a dairy storage room. The cottage garden at the front of the farmhouse also incorporates bricks, stones and tiles salvaged during the renovation.
© Text and images copyright Lesley Jackson