Mansion with Brontë connections to be sold by cash-strapped Kirklees Council

The former Red House Museum, which is to be sold off.
The former Red House Museum, which is to be sold off. Credit: Facebook

A 17th century Georgian mansion house with links to Charlotte Brontë could be sold off by a cash-strapped council.

The former Red House Museum, in Gomersal, West Yorkshire, is one of four sites earmarked for sale by Kirklees Council as it struggles to fill a £47m hole in its budget.

The Grade II*-listed building, built in 1660, was once the home of Charlotte Brontë's friend Mary Taylor, and is believed by aficionados to have been the inspiration for the house "Briarmains" in her 1849 novel, Shirley.

For many years a museum, it was shut in 2016 as part of council cutbacks.

Red House now joins the DRAM (Dalton, Rawthorpe and Moldgreen) Sport and Community Centre, Huddersfield's HUDAWI Centre, and the former Paddock Young People's Centre on a list of buildings to be sold.

The council is also selling several parcels of land.

The council estimates it could cut property running costs by around £240,000 a year.

Cllr Graham Turner, cabinet member for finance and regeneration, said: "Continuing to reduce the number of buildings we operate from while creating a core of building assets means that we have the space we need to deliver vital services and provide office accommodation for staff while saving money."

The authority opted to sell Red House when plans to turn it into a wedding venue and holiday accommodation in 2021 collapsed after it failed to receive any viable Community Asset Transfer applications.

The DRAM centre has also been declared surplus to requirements although it may be eligible for asset transfer status. The council will explore that option and make a decision in the new year.

Former councillor Peter McBride said saving £50,000 on its closure was a tiny outgoing given that the council was unlikely to realise the building's cost price of £1.6m at sale. He said it was an important and well-used community asset.

Halina Kasperowicz of the charity Red House Yorkshire Heritage Trust said many local authorities would look at the building as "an asset to cherish" and set out plans to exploits its Brontë connections.

She said previously rejected plans to offer the building to the Landmark Trust should be resurrected.

Charlotte Brontë Credit: PA Images

The HUDAWI Centre, which has been primarily used as a venue to support council service needs with some additional bookings made by the wider community, could also be the focus of an asset transfer.

The council has pledged to "thoroughly explore" the option.

Among those that spoke in support, Natalie Pinnock-Hamilton described it as "the spiritual home for the African Caribbean community" and hoped it would continue as a legacy building for generations to come.

A half-acre site at 1 Beech Street in Paddock, including the two-storey former Methodist Church Sunday School building with sports hall extension, will be sold off.

The main building was closed in 2018 while the sports hall, which has remained open, is currently used by a local gymnastics club. The club is relocate to alternative premises.

Cllr Turner said Red House was "a victim of cuts and Covid" as the council no longer had the funds to evolve the site.

He encouraged all those passionate about saving the buildings to consider applying for asset transfers.

He said the council could not afford to run the buildings due to government funding cuts.

He said: "It's not our fault. We don't like to do these [cuts] but we must make these really tough, heartbreaking decisions."