Forest of Galtres Society

A West Riding Expedition

June 20, 2008

Forest of Galtres Society Members took themselves off to the busy metropolitan area bisected by the roaring M62 on 17th June 2008. Red House, Gomersal – An intriguing name, and a charming 17th century red brick house shown in the 1830s. The Taylor family had lived there from 1660 until the 1920s. An important visitor (when looked at from our modern perspective) was Charlotte Bronte. She was a friend of Joshua Taylor’s daughter, Mary, and she used Red House as the setting for the novel ‘Shirley’.

The staff welcomed us, we enjoyed our tour of an attractive family home and the shop provided pretty goodies for the ‘present’ drawer. The displays in the barn and the cart sheds brought the literary connections of Spen Valley into clear focus.

Next to nearby Oakwell Hall. The road signs mysteriously invisible but we arrived nevertheless. Oakwell Hall is a total contrast, for it was built after 1583 and is a gentry Pennine house. The Great Hall is a magnificent space with a huge wall of windows – 30 leaded casements set in stone mullions stacked in three levels. A statement of prosperity and achievement on a grand scale. We were all impressed by the quality of the hall and the wood and plaster decorative detail embellishing the main chambers. John Batt built the house and his grandson John added new scumbled decoration to the panelling to imitate more expensive wood finish. The Batt family direct line died out in 1707 – note that Nathan Batt Jackson was Vicar in Easingwold – what is the likelihood of a connection your correspondent wonders?

Our tour was guided by Eric Brown and he showed his considerable knowledge of this Grade I house. The Park Ranger told us about the garden and grounds of the country park – that day in the deafening noise from traffic on the M62.

These two houses are owned and run by Kirklees Metropolitan Council. They are both a welcome lung of history and Bronte connections – Oakwell Hall was a school, and both are displayed with a real feeling of home and comfort and quality – quite delightful!

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