Building & Rebuilding

Having assessed and described the condition of life on his estate (see Brandsby 1890), Hugh’s earliest efforts at social regeneration and reform manifested themselves in buildings.  From the beginning, all Hugh’s new buildings or alterations used sound building methods, i.e. proper foundations, damp courses, air spaces where necessary and he always insisted on good materials, whether stone or brick and good oak. The building works listed here are the structural underpinnings to Hugh’s much wider programme of social and economic renovation in Brandsby and the surrounding area.

Reading Room (1889) and High Side, Brandsby: This was Hugh’s first social project; a cottage at the end of the High Side row became available. The eaves of this row were very low, as noted elsewhere and the bedrooms very unsatisfactory. Hugh had the bedroom floor taken out in the vacant cottage and made it into the Reading Room.  Later, Hugh had the roofs on the rest of the row raised and the bedrooms improved.

High side
Highside cottages with Reading Room.

Later a wooden structure for the Reading Room was built next to the village (Cholmeley) hall.  (See photo below under Village hall. It was always Hugh’s intention to built a permanent library/reading room, but neither he, nor the village hall committee were able to achieve this.

Bank House/Old Quarry House (1890): His first housing project was the improvement of Bank House, then occupied by John White, the carrier.  Detmar Blow was the architect and this was his first piece of work.  This House was appallingly damp, with a crumbling kitchen and dairy at the back, two very poor bedrooms at the front and at the back an attic with a roof held up by canvas which served as a bedroom for the boys. There were five girls and four boys in this family. Hugh and Blow discussed and planned the renovations together.
The existing building was improved and an annex added containing a new back kitchen and dairy with two new bedrooms over it. They had great difficulty getting the workmen to carry out the work to architect’s specifications; the leaving of a covered air space at the back to keep the bank away from the wall was particularly decried, as were there putting in of strong foundations. They had particular trouble with the masons. Hugh’s agent thought the building to be too grand for a workman’s house.  However, they ‘made a comfortable house out of a wretched hovel’, though Hugh admits it was perhaps somewhat extravagant for a workman.

Bank House
Bank House/Old Quarry House.

Mill Hill (1892-3): Hugh second building project was to build a house for himself in the village, this house embodied Hugh’s ideas on how life should be lived and was integral to his life on the estate until he got tied into the politics of agriculture on a wider scale, which took him to London a lot. Also Mill Hill, in its first iteration, was really only suitable for bachelor life. He had to make alterations rapidly after he married in 1903. (see separate page)

Stable and fold yard sheds at Low Farm (1893): as the house at mill Hill neared completion, Hugh asked Blow to design stables and a new fold yard at Low Farm. These buildings, though modified over time to suit the functions of the farm, are still in farm use.

Low Farm Buildings

Two cottages at Barfield (1894): following the completion of Mill Hill, Hugh had two cottages rebuilt at Barfields on the opposite side of the main road, again with Blow as architect. These were for the Ward brothers, the joiner and the mason, whom he had recruited to come and work at Brandsby. Again these were criticized as being too good for workmen, but they were fine cottages. In 1910 Hugh had them made into one house for his brother Willie to live in with his family.

Barfield cottages, now one house.

Bar Cottages/ Bar House: The smithy was originally at Bar cottages. Hugh had these renovated for Grainger, the smith who came into the village from Stearsby. Later they were converted into one house, now called Bar House.
The name betrays an earlier history; a room at the end of one of the cottages was where tenants came to pay their rent. The layout of the room still shows evidence of this older use. The external door to the room, still has a vertical letterbox, designed to allow people to deposit their rent when the office was unmanned. In 2015 this room was still serving a function for the village as a drop off point for the collection of daily newspapers.

Bar House, formerly Bar Cottages.

Granary and cartshed at Warren House: Detmar Blow moved on to probably more lucrative commissions and recommended G.P. Bankart to Hugh, who worked on these with Hugh.  Hugh though these two buildings ‘extravagant and not entirely well contrived’, but he puts this down to the fact that neither himself nor Bankart had any agricultural experience. But he doubts that anyone in Brandsby would have done better.
Following the Warren House buildings, Hugh has this to say:

‘The native experience would produce nothing but patchwork without any definite plan or idea of remodelling or bringing building up to modern requirements, and when later on Mr Wood became my agent and worked out good modern farmsteads, these buildings made a better basis on which to start than anything we should have devised with local advice.  Moreover I was learning sound traditions on building all this time which now serve me in good stead and enable us to devise our own plans.  A good school of workmen was also growing up who only needed the advent of Mr Wood to marshal them and form a really valuable set of men.  When Mr Wood came in 1897, it is due to his ingenuity that we now have such a good set of farm steadings all over the estate.  He too had to learn, but his experience as a farmer gave the practical turn to farm plans and all farming reforms that was so much needed.’

There was a new more practical approach to Hugh’s building ventures after this.

Saw Mill Shed in the village, now a garage.

SawMill shed
Saw Mill Shed.


Cricket Recreation Ground (1893):  This was laid out by Backhouse of York at a cost of £30. Further money was needed for drainage, rolling and mowing ant the provision of a water tank for watering.  The parish found £20, £5 or £6 was raised by a concert and Hugh paid the balance of around £20.

Brandsby Dairy Association Dairy (1893/4): this was built in the back half of the Coach House at Brandsby Hall. It remained there until Hugh built a new dairy in the village, somewhere between 1901 and 1907.

Brandsby Hall Coachhouse, site of first Brandsby Dairy Association Dairy.

Water laid to Spella Park Farm (1894):  iron pipes connected to the Hall main.

Water laid on to the village and to Seaves Farm(1890s): Hugh had much trouble with his agent Pearson and Bailiff, Hanson who cut down the specification and did not attend to the levels required for the main, which caused an unsatisfactory result. There was much hindering and ridiculing of the scheme. Hugh did not discover the level problem till 1918 when he laid a new main to the reservoir in Hewthit Wood. In Hugh’s view much of the opposition to the scheme was from fear that his example might set other villages clamouring for water. The scheme cost £320 and the money was borrowed from the Lands Improvement Company.

Water laid to Water End Farm.

Two cottages at Snargate Farm (1896): For these Hugh created his own design for cottages. He wrote a lengthy article explaining the design which was to take into account the needs of a working man’s family, pleasing appearance and economy of building; this was published in The Builder and also presented it at the annual meeting of the Rural Housing and Sanitation Association, 21st November 1905. Hugh drew the plan himself, but got his architect friend Alfred Powell to draw the staircase, windows, doors and the elevation. He paid Powell £10 .

There was much argument from landowners that it was not economically viable to build labourers cottages, but Hugh argued that, using his design and specification, a pair of cottages could be built for around £300, and he estimated that 3/- could be charged for rent, making it in his view, an economically sound proposition. The cottages at Snargate cost £349. 16. 2d

Snargate cottages, now one house.

Bath House (1897): This was built for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Year: the Parish contributed £30 towards it. The bathhouse functioned until 1967.  It is now a residential property, but the inscription remains.

Brandsby Bath House Inscription.


Stearsby Hall renovations (1897): For these, Hugh employed G.P. Bankart as architect.

Water laid on to Low Farm.

Brandsby Agricultural Trading Association (BATA): Hugh organised a goods transport scheme with the North Eastern Railway for the association.  BATA built a depot shed in the village to service this.  But also at different stages Hugh built shop, intitially wooden, but later he replaced this with a stone built house for the manager and a shop.  He also moved the Dairy out of the Hall Coach House, building a new Dairy down at the BATA depot, to join the Saw Mill Shed.  A complex of buildings for the Cooperative was now established.

BATA Depot, shop in the background and NER locomotive in operation.

Other pictures concerning BATA appear on the BATA page.

Two cottages at Warren House (1906): Using the same design as at Snaregate. These cottages cost £337. 4. 4d.

Now known as the Fairfax and the Cholmeley, and in use as holiday cottages.

One cottage at Low Farm (1903): Again built to the HCFC design Cost £152. 8. 1d

Low Farm Cottage.

Three cottages at Stearsby: As noted in Hugh’s description of the estate when he inherited it, the labourers cottages at Stearsby were among the worst. There was a row of six with deplorable sanitary arrangements on the ground which is now the front gardens of this row of three which Hugh built to replace them. Naturally, he used his own tried and tested cottage plan.

Stearsby cottages.

Village cottages: At some point, date unknown, Hugh had the roofs of the Highside cottages raised and sanitary improvements were made to them and to the Dale cottages. The Woodside Cottages had been more recently built by his uncle Francis Cholmeley and did not require as much renovation.

Wood arrived in 1897; ‘After a year or two he devised improved plans for the buildings of nearly every farm on the estate, both at Brandsby and Coulton, taking one after the other till we got the whole in excellent order.’ HCFC

Among these improvements were:

Fold sheds at Warren House (1890s) and further remodelling of buildings, plus building a butcher’s shop to help young Jack Strickland, grandson of the then tenant.

DSC01518 2
Warren House with extension.  Fold buildings are behind.


Remodelling of Radcliffe’s farm at Stearsby.

Remodelling of Cattley’s house at Stearsby, new cowshed and remodelling of the other farm buildings.

Entire remodelling of remaining Low Farm buildings.

Potters Hill, new farm buildings.

Coulton, new farm buildings.

Swathgill, new farm buildings.

Raising of two cottages at Coulton.

Ivy cottages (circa 1910) replaced roof, added another storey, remodelled ground floor and stairs. These have since been combined into one house with extensions.

Ivy cottages before renovation.

Ivy Cottages after renovation, reverse inscription written by HCFC.

Ivy cottages today, now White House.

Dale End house:
Hugh had this built for Mrs Crawhall and her artist son.  Alfred Powell was the architect; the house cost £1,500. The rationale for building this was that Hugh thought the Crawhalls would be a good addition to Brandsby village life.

Dale End House, before completion and today.

Cholmeley Hall (1912-13):  With the sale of Brandsby Hall, it would no longer be possible for Hugh to hold village social events there, so he pushed on with a project he had long had in mind, namely to get a village hall built. To do this, he followed his usual procedure, got a committee together, himself gave the land, the stone and £50 and charged the committee with raising the rest of the money. £180 was raised through a bazaar organised by Mrs Fairfax-Cholmeley. The plan was Hugh’s drawn up by Powell.

Later a wooden structure was built alongside the hall, which served as the Reading room. It also had two billiard tables in it and a kitchen for use for the cricket matches.

Village Hall with Reading Room.

A wooden pavilion was also built on the other side of the Hall, about where the children’s playground is now, as is illustrated by the painting below.

Photo of painting by Fr. Raphael Williams of Ampleforth, friend of the Cholmeleys, showing the pavilion.
Cholmeley Hall with kitchen extension, 2016.

The Reading Room and Pavilion no longer exist.

The author inspects information on Cholmeley Hall.


Foulrice Farm (1917); two rooms added to farm house and buildings improved.

Swathgill (1926): new family house out of the existing farmhouse, grounds and gardens.  Architect, Alfred Powell. The was the last house in which the Fairfax-Cholmeley family lived on the Brandsby estate. Hugh and his wife Alice designed it between them. During and in the years after the war they had had many economically difficult years and had had to sell both the Hall and Mill Hill. They had many happy family years at Swathgill and the house was remembered with great affection by family members after it was finally sold in the 1940s.

Swathgill taken by HCFC.


Swathgill from the across the valley.
View from the house at Swathgill, farm buildings in the hollow.


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