A glimpse into the restoration of a 17th century gentry house

Posted: 11 April 2023

We recently caught up with our Trustee, Phil Thomas, about his project to restore the wonderful Grade II* listed, seventeenth-century Knedlington Old Hall in Yorkshire, which we visited with our members for a guided tour led by Phil in the summer of 2022.

Phil spoke about the various challenges he’s facing with both restoring its historic setting and securing its long-term future:

“Since retiring from building conservation in 2018, I seem to spend most of my time deep in the seventeenth century. In 2017 we bought a beautiful, deeply damaged house in Yorkshire, built in 1650, and have been working to understand it and then to undo the worst that the ruthless 1960s threw at it; creatively re-inventing what has been lost or must be replaced in traditional, breathable materials. Trying to both work within sound conservation principles, and offer the future a new layer of beauty and significance, can be puzzling, frustrating and vastly rewarding.

When we came here, the house was surrounded by bleak lawns, so it seemed important to create an appropriate setting; a garden which followed as far as possible the seventeenth century ideal of garden, court, orchard, yard, with appropriate garden structures.

Like the house, the former agricultural outbuildings need repair, conservation and a sustainable future – a significant problem in most rural areas. Our eighteenth-century dovecote, stable and dairy range, for example, is in serious structural distress and has been crudely altered in the past. We propose gently to repair it, restore its visual relationship with the house, and use it as holiday accommodation which we hope will eventually provide an income to help maintain the ensemble of buildings.”