“An elegant edifice … most elaborate and sumptuous” Keighley Past and Present (1879, p.236).
“I trust your Chateau is making progress at Oakworth” Jonathan Holden in a letter to Isaac Holden 1876 (Holden-Illingworth Letters p.513)
This week, documents which give a vivid picture of a lost wonder of Bradford: a plan and draft description of the Oakworth House Estate written for the Sale by Public Auction at the Temperance Hall Keighley on 20 July 1898.
Located in the village of Oakworth, just outside Keighley, Oakworth House was a large Italianate villa, designed for Sir Isaac Holden by Bradford architect George Smith. It replaced a smaller house built by Jonas Sugden, brother of Isaac’s wife Sarah. On the edge of the moors, with clean and bracing air, Oakworth village was becoming popular with well-off Bradfordians seeking to live outside the pollution of the city; it was easily commutable from 1867 thanks to Oakworth Station of Railway Children fame – though, typically, Sir Isaac tended to walk to his Alston factory, on Thornton Road, about 9 or 10 miles depending on the route.
Oakworth House took ten years (1864-1874) to complete and cost £80,000. Sir Isaac took a close personal interest in all aspects of its design, sparing no expense to include every luxury and convenience: electric and gas light, telegraph, telephone and innovative heating and ventilation systems. It had a Central Hall, Drawing Room, Dining Room, Library, Morning Room, Study, Billiard Room, eight bedrooms, two bathrooms, servants’ quarters, offices and cellars: the auctioneer’s description gives dimensions and details of elements such as the splendid oak panelling.
Many of the features of Oakworth House reflected Sir Isaac’s beliefs about health: the value of fresh fruit, exercise and very hot daily baths. Hence a Turkish Bath was fitted in the house, while the grounds contained a unique Winter Garden and many other Glass Houses (Peach House, Vineries, Fig House, Tomato Houses …). French and Italian craftsmen created magical caves, grottoes and mosaic paths in the extensive woods.
After Sir Isaac’s death in 1897 (in his 91st year – a lifespan possibly thanks to his healthy lifestyle!), the House was left empty. Sadly this wonderful building burned down in 1909. Later his family presented the grounds of Oakworth House to the local Council as a public park in his memory; Holden Park was opened by his grandson Francis Illingworth in 1925. It is still open to the public, who can delight in what remains of Sir Isaac’s magnificent mansion: the portico, summerhouse, caves, grottoes, mosaics, paths.