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Emergency meeting to save ‘best preserved Victorian home in the north’

The Victorian Society and Leeds Civic Trust have joined forces to try and save the exceptional interiors of the Grade II*-listed Spenfield House.

Peacock Room at Spenfield House

The Victorian Society and Leeds Civic Trust have joined forces to try and save one of the best preserved Victorian home in the North. Virtually unknown to the public, the Grade II*-listed Spenfield House has exceptional interiors which campaigners argue will be lost forever if a plan to convert the building into flats goes ahead.  An emergency public meeting will be held on 1st June to explain the building’s importance and to form a new ‘Friends of Spenfield House’ group. Un-broadcast footage of former poet Laureate, John  Betjeman, admiring Spenfield’s stunning interiors will also be shown.

Spenfield House, in Far Headingley near Leeds, was built in 1875 and has exceptionally ornate interiors of the highest quality such as its peacock room. These fine interiors are now under threat because new owners have applied for planning permission to split up the house into six apartments, and build eight new dwellings in the walled garden.  

Leeds Civic Trust and the Victorian Society have joined forces to invite the public to an emergency meeting to find a future for Spenfield at 7.30pm Monday 1st June at St Chad’s Parish Centre, Far Headingley, LS16 5JT. Illustrations of the stunning interior will accompany a talk on the history of the house before a discussion of how to save it. Unseen 1964 BBC footage of John Betjeman, former Poet Laureate and founding member of the Victorian Society, visiting Spenfield and marvelling at the intricate workmanship will also be shown. It is intended to set up a Friends of Spenfield House group following the meeting.   

Director of the Leeds Civic Trust, Dr Kevin Grady said: “We are extremely concerned that if these magnificent rooms are sub-divided their importance will be lost forever. It should be a jewel in the crown of Leeds heritage available for the people of Leeds to enjoy. Historic England describe the rooms as "of museum quality" because of their intricate craftsmanship. Unfortunately this work is extremely delicate and vulnerable to damage, so splitting the house into six apartments is a recipe for disaster.”

Richard Tinker of the Victorian Society said: “Spenfield is the best preserved Victorian Home in the north of its size. Ideally it would make a great new museum for Leeds, especially if it could be linked with Leeds’ bid to be a European City of Culture. Alternatively the house could become a small hotel and conference centre or, of course, it could become an amazing private home again.” 

More pictures of the outstanding interiors can be viewed here.

The planning applications to convert the building into flats are 14/06950 and 14/06951/L1.  Both applications are currently subject to appeal for non-determination on behalf of the owner/applicant, Mr Henry Kordowitz of Round Strategies Ltd.  A non-determination appeal can be applied for when a local authority does not issue a decision within eight weeks. As a result the decision is not taken by the local authority but by the planning inspectorate.

Spenfield’s architect was George Corson who also designed Leeds Grand Theatre and the City Library, including the famous Tiled Hall. Both buildings give a flavour of the quality of decoration at Spenfield. The ornate house was owned by Leeds City Council Water Board and then Yorkshire Water.  This protected it from modernisation in the 1960s and 1970s when Victorian architecture was extremely unpopular. After a period as a conference centre and catering school Spenfield has recently been sold and is now out of use.   

Friday 22 May, 2015

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