Set in the village of Wyke near Bradford, Mill House was in a sorry state when Robert Silkstone and David Gallant bought it in 2011. Seven years later, the property has been transformed into a unique home that combines 21st-century comfort with historical authenticity.
Mill House was built in 1898 by the Birkby family, who owned the village brick works. The traditional West Riding property featured three floors, stone-faced cavity walls, a slate roof and an interior built with Birkby bricks.
Restoring Mill House was a labour of love for Robert in particular, whose passion for period model making and history came in handy. When he discovered the original Victorian doors hidden under hardboard and layers of gloss paint, he was bitten by the restoration bug and felt a sense of duty to “do right” by the house.
Despite his enthusiasm, Robert had a tough job on his hands. Mill House had been empty for two years and hadn’t been modernised since 1964. The original fireplaces and cupboards were boarded over, the wiring was obsolete, the bathroom was dated and the chimneys were close to collapse.
Fortunately, Robert knew how to approach the project, as his degree had involved studying how English Heritage restores buildings. He had also helped to restore a pavilion and was experienced at tracing the history of houses.
The transformation of Mill House’s interior involved replacing the wooden windows with double glazed replica Victorian sash windows. The cast iron fireplaces and the range were restored to working condition and new fire rated ceilings were installed. By copying fragments that were discovered on site, Robert was able to restore the property’s ornate plasterwork to its former glory. The coving was then recast, using a template made from the original.
Living in the property throughout the restoration process wasn’t easy. For nearly six years, a back boiler connected to the hot water cylinder was Robert and David’s only source of hot water. “After a hard day of restoration, we would need to wait two hours for the boiler to warm up after lighting the fire. We have experienced ice on the inside of our windows and have laid in a bath looking up through a missing ceiling!”
Thankfully, the couple had plenty of support from building control officer Wasim, who ensured that the restoration met building regulations. To gain approval, the replacement slate roof included extra ventilation, insulation and roof windows. The bedroom ceilings were lowered to improve insulation and new water supply pipes were fitted.
A new central heating system and updated electrics were also key to the modernisation of Mill House. Robert and David were keen to keep original features where possible, so “the restoration of electrically operated gas light fittings was enabled by tracing original gas pipes in walls and refitting lights.”
Restoring the exterior of Mill House was a similarly painstaking process. Each chimney stack was taken down then faithfully reconstructed, the porch was recreated and the original workshop, wash house and coal bunker were rebuilt.
Sustainability was a major consideration throughout the restoration, so Robert and David sourced reclaimed fittings and recycled brick and stone. Door architraves were salvaged from neighbouring properties and most of the timber was donated by a local builder. They even discovered two cast iron roof windows on eBay!
The restoration of Mill House has ensured its survival for many years to come and the project was nominated for the LABC West Yorkshire Best Alteration To An Existing Home Award in 2017
Robert Silkstone, 01274 676305
Bradford Building Control, 01274 431964