Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II*

List Entry Number: 1135404

Date first listed: 12-Jan-1967

Date of most recent amendment: 08-Nov-2012



Ordnance survey map of RED HOUSE
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Kirklees (Metropolitan Authority)

Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Grid Reference: SE 20785 26259


House with barn and coach house, dating to c.1660, with alterations of the C18 and early C20, formerly belonging to the Taylor family and having close association with Charlotte Brontë.

Reasons for Designation

The Red House is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Architecture: the house contains some good survivals of the Georgian period, including a staircase, fireplaces and windows, embedded in a late C17 core; * Function/industrial interest: the architecture of the house, barn and coach house reflects the function and development of this hub for the emerging and developing woollen cloth industry through the C17, C18 and C19; * Historic interest: Mary Taylor, a radical feminist of the mid C18, was born and brought up in the house; * Literary interest: Charlotte Brontë based the house 'Briarmains' and the 'Yorke' family in her novel 'Shirley' on the Red House and the Taylor family, with whom she stayed as a friend of Mary Taylor.


The Red House is reputed to date from 1660, when William Taylor built a new red brick house next to an existing 'old' house. The Taylor family were present in Gomersal for more than a century before, originally small farmers and clothiers, later successful cloth finishers and merchants. Inventories of 1689 and 1713 show both old and new houses still standing, with workshops and items associated with cloth manufacture. The old house is thought to have been demolished in the mid C18, and the existing barn to the west of the house also dates to this period. Improvements to the Red House of this period included the rebuilding of the main front, raising the ceiling height of the Parlour and opening up the housebody to install a new staircase with gallery and arches. The family continued to prosper through the C18 and early C19, being pioneers in the mechanisation of woollen processing and the use of steam.

In the 1830s Charlotte Brontë became a close friend of Mary Taylor, the daughter of Joshua Taylor, and the rest of the family, and frequently visited the Red House. The house and the Taylors featured centrally in the novel Shirley, as 'Briarmains' and the 'Yorke' family, with the house described in detail, including reference to a painted window still evident. Mary Taylor (1817-1893) was a radical feminist who promoted independence from men and who wrote articles and a novel after extensive foreign travels.

An 1840 valuation itemises the 'house, kitchen, garden, lawn, shrubberies and plantation, Press shop, pearking shop, packing shop, counting house, coach house, cart shed, barn, stable and yard'. The owners, the Taylor family, were involved in the domestic cloth working industry, where work was carried out in cottages and brought to the finishing and distribution centre at the Red House, and they oversaw its development into the factory system through the early C19. The counting house was evidence of the bank that the Taylors owned and ran.

The first edition OS 1:10560 map of 1853 shows the house, coach house and barn in their current locations. By 1894 the 1:2500 map shows that by then the front had two canted bay windows.

In the first quarter of the C20, the house was sold out of the Taylor family, and the new owners extended the house to the west, adding a bay to the Parlour and introducing large windows to both the west and east ends of the ground floor, with other minor additions to the east end of the house. The house was purchased by Spenborough Council in 1969, and opened as a museum in 1974. Serious structural problems at the rear (north) wall led to its complete reconstruction in 1995-7, using matching bricks.


MATERIALS: the house is constructed of red brick with stone quoins and a stone slate roof.

PLAN: the two-storey house has six bays aligned east-north-east to west-south-west. The roof is hipped to the front (south-facing), with four gables to the rear, the westernmost gable extending beyond the line of the front. An attached square block with a hipped roof is situated to the north-east of the main house. A coach house and barn are situated to the west beyond gardens.

EXTERIOR: the main elevation has an off-centre entrance doorway with small flanking windows and a double semi-circular fanlight with glazing bars. To either side is a six-over-six unhorned sash window, and beyond those a canted bay window with stone dressings. On the first floor are three two-light sash windows and two single sashes, all six-over-six, alternating. To the left is a further bay, slightly recessed, added in the early C20 with one first-floor sash window. The left return (west side) has a large, five-light ground-floor window and a single sash window above. Towards the rear is a projecting section without windows. The right return (east side) has a two-light window with stone dressings to the left and a large window in a square bay under a slate roof to the ground floor, and two first-floor windows with stone dressings. To the right is an attached building in coursed dressed stone with a hipped roof. It has two-light pointed arch windows at first-floor level on the south, east and north sides; the west side which extends beyond the rear wall of the house is brick above with two first-floor windows and a recessed ground floor with two doors. The rear wall of the house, rebuilt in 1995-7, has four gables and a range of modern sash windows in each bay.

INTERIOR: the front door opens into a spacious hall from which the main staircase rises to the right, with an open galleried landing to the rear. The staircase has slender wooden balusters. Below the gallery the ground floor has been opened out with three round arches leading to a shop area to the rear. To the left is the parlour, extended in the early C20, with decorative plasterwork and alcoves to either side of the fireplace, and a kitchen and scullery to the rear, each with a range. A back stair leads up from the kitchen. To the right is a study at the front with a dining room behind, both having a similar fireplace with white marble surrounds and cast iron grates; the grates appear late C18 but the surrounds are in a mid Victorian style. The dining room contains the stained glass window described in Charlotte Bronte's 'Shirley'. On the first floor is a series of rooms, of which three are dressed as bedrooms. These all have fireplaces including an attractively decorated all-in-one cast iron grate and surround. Other rooms are used as offices, meeting room and exhibition room. All doors, including the main front door, are modern replacements.

SUBSIDIARY ITEMS: the barn, situated to the west of the house and aligned at right angles to it, is a two-storey building in stone with quoins and a hipped stone slate roof. The east elevation, facing the house, has a central cart entrance with a large two-light window above flanked by a circular window to either side, and three further smaller doors. The north end, facing the coach house has a central doorway and a loading door above, and the west side has a single doorway and a row of ventilation slits above. Internally the barn has two floors with modern partitions on the ground floor, open above with exposed roof structure of pegged trusses.

The single-storey coach house is also in stone with a stone slate roof, and consists of four open-fronted arches, the right hand one blocked, with a doorway to the left. The interior has been restored with new and reused timbers.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 341056

Legacy System: LBS


Books and journals
Brontë, C, Shirley, (1849)
Pevsner, N, Radcliffe, E, The Buildings of England: Yorkshire: The West Riding, (1967)
Taylor, Mary (1817-1893), accessed from,

End of official listing