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A Brief History of Ashfield House, Scholes.

from The Barwicker No.61

Ashfield House, No.7 Station Road, Scholes, is on the junction of Morwick Grove next to Scholes (Elmet) Junior and Infant School. It was built in October 1884. It was located in a garth of grassland - 1 acre, 1 rood and 10 perches. The area was known as Low Moor, Whinmoor, and was part of the wastes of the manor of Barwick and Scholes. Originally this part of Scholes was uninhabited. On the Enclosure Award of 1804, it was divided into garths by the Lord of the Manor, Sir Thomas Gascoigne of Parlington, who owned other land including Lotherton Hall and much of Garforth.

The very first copyhold tenure was granted to a Richard Dennison who used it for grazing. As far back as 14 February 1810 William Dawson, a miller of Rothwell, and his first wife Ann, held the garth. Also connected with the garth were two cottages, an orchard and outbuildings in Town Street (now Main Street). These were situated opposite Snowdrop Cottages and were called Rose Cottages or Villas and were occupied by James Armitage and his wife as tenants.

Manor courts were held regularly and one on 8 February 1850 stated that Thomas Dawson of Seacroft surrendered the lease of the copyhold tenancy for 33 to James Turner, stonemason of Bradford, and Sarah his wife. This tenancy lasted to 24 May 1854 when he was paid 195 by Thomas Dawson to buy the garth back. The garth at this time was still grassland. The Dawson family lived somewhere in Seacroft village. Thomas Dawson's first wife died aged 33 on 19 October 1825 in childbirth. There were several children but 3 died in childhood. Thomas died 12 February 1861 aged 78. The family are buried in St James' churchyard at Seacroft. When David Dawson died on 7 April 1892, he too was buried in this grave. Before his death he had owned other property in Scholes and lived at Snowdrop Cottages in Town Street.

In the 1800s Scholes was still a village in the countryside. The railway and the station including the two railway cottages by the bridge were built around 1876. Isaac Chippendale of Seacroft Mill started to quarry the land down Wood Lane behind the garth and opened his brick and tile works sometime in 1877 and started selling bricks in 1879.

On 14 October 1884, two spinster sisters Emma and Mary Ann Arnott (daughters of John and Hannah Arnott - a builder and plasterer of Harehills, Leeds) purchased the Scholes Plain Close Garth from David Dawson for 140. It appears that they also intended buying two cottages (Rose Villas), garth and orchard mentioned earlier but on the day of the sale they declined and the items were crossed off the title deeds. The sisters came from a large family and their father built many of the back-to-back houses in Harehills, Leeds, at the Conways, Bexleys and Ashtons. Emma and Mary Ann, with the help of their brother Frederick, built a large gentleman's residence in the right-hand side of the garth, surrounded by gardens, an orchard and fields. The original plot of 1 acre, 1 rood and 30 perches can still be ascertained from the row of trees along the school boundary and behind the houses in Morwick Grove and backing onto Chippendale's land.

The house was named Ashfield House. The local brickworks proved very convenient - 49,000 common bricks and 4,530 pressed bricks were purchased together with lime, ash and barrels of water. The old brickyard ledgers show an account opened 14 October 1884 for the the sisters and continuing until after 1907. On 23 October 1884, 3850 common bricks and 800 well bricks were delivered by cart. The well bricks were used for lining the first ten feet of the well which had been excavated for 32 feet through the clay in the rear garden near the rear entrance. A pump yard and stone trough were used to transfer the water through iron pipes (still visible) via the cellar through to a hand pump in the scullery. The well is still there and always has just two feet of water in. Sometime in the 1940s the well water was tested by Leeds University and found to be pure enough to drink. Ashfield House did not have mains water until 1959. Mains electricity was installed in February 1936. Previously there had been oil lamps on the chimney breast and presumably candles. A telephone was established in November 1951.

Ashfield House is one of the oldest houses in the village and is typically Victorian with large airy rooms. The rear faces south west. It originally had five rooms upstairs. Downstairs consisted of the entrance hall as now and three reception rooms with a passage to the rear porch with doors through to the kitchen, scullery, larder and extensive cellars. The house seems to have been constructed over several years.

The 1891 census records John and Hannah Arnott and their grandson Frederick as residents. By 1895, the sisters' 14 year old nephew, Frederick, was living there. He kept a diary through to 1951 which records many interesting details of life at Ashfield House including work which he carried out. Frederick became a painter and decorator. The house today retains many Victorian features. Many of the rooms still have the original covings, deep skirting boards and sash windows. Frederick meticulously recorded the quantities of paper and paint for every room - even the cost sometimes. He was also a keen photographer. At one time he photographed Scholes and Barwick-in-Elmet and sold the pictures to raise money for the local church - St. Philip's. In 1910 he took several pictures of the Ashfield House and garden. Copies of these are still available.

By 1905, the house had a battery bell push system with push buttons located on either side of the lounge fireplace, front and back doors with extensions to the outside washhouse and greenhouse. The wires can still be seen in the cellars. The gates of Ashfield House were bought from Samuel Dennison of Vicar Lane, Leeds, in November 1897 for a few pounds. Other gate posts were made by Frederick himself. On 3 May 1902, Frederick secured a flagpole to the front of the house to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII. The iron brackets of this pole are still there. In 1902 to 1904 the front terraces were built by Frederick with a matching garden wall. He cast all the copings using wooden moulds including a special stone around an apple tree.

The Arnotts were some of the first people in Scholes to own a car. A two seater Jowett was purchased for 71 from Harrogate Motors in 1924, followed by a second Jowett in 1928. for 141. After Emma died in 1913 and Mary Ann in 1929, the house was inherited by Frederick, their nephew, who had looked after the house for so long. He continued to live there until his death in February 1959 aged 78.

In September 1941 two large cellars were cleared to provide an air raid shelter for 125 children and 5 teachers from the local school next door. The West Riding Education Board (as it was then called) could not have been too happy at the thought of 200 tons of brickwork falling on their charges and so they purchased 38 timber posts to support the flooring in January 1941. Several of the posts are still standing. They also constructed a wooden escape door which is still visible from inside.

After Frederick died in 1959, the house was put up for auction. It was bought by John Strong, a Leeds builder and shop fitter, and his wife Doreen. In 1968 the Strong family decided to sell off some of the land at the rear of the house to the developers Cooper and Wood. The old wash houses etc. had already been demolished to be replaced with a double garage. The long drive was constructed and two existing stone gateposts were set further apart, but the winding garden path built by Frederick was left and is still in use. The sale of the land left Ashfield House standing in a third of an acre. The original gate to the field adjacent to Ashfield House became the road to the new houses - Morwick Grove.

Mr Strong died suddenly in 1973. By 1976 Mrs Strong decided to sell the house and it was bought by Mr and Mrs Mitchell. In 1980, the Mitchells decided to sell the house and move to Scotland. My husband Brian and I bought Ashfield House in August 1981. I have spent many hours at archives and record offices researching both the history of the house and its owners.


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