Wilsden Conservation Area

This was established in 1977 and covers the historic core of the village in a linear pattern along Main Street, with Wilsden Hill constituting an isolated agricultural hamlet. The area is overwhelmingly residential in character, but also retains a strong retail and commercial function, with some of the mills used for light industry. This description of the Wilsden Conservation Area is based upon the assessment carried out by Bradford Council.

We have illustrated this description of the Conservation Area with sketches by R.H. Fawcett a well-known local historian and artist. These were drawn in the 1950’s and 1960’s and show that while many major buildings have been demolished much of the area is still easily recognisable

A small minority of the conservation area’s pavements and side roads are surfaced with York stone setts and flags. The vast majority of the listed buildings in the conservation area are listed for their group value, such as Chapel Row and Club Row, two short rows of early industrial cottages which feature trios of stepped windows. Other groups include the L-range of cottages at 71-77 Main Street and Garden View and Lee Farmhouse and its barn. Many of the industrial worker’s cottages were built in various stages over the first half of the nineteenth century. Forms range from small folds to short rows. Generally, the cottages are fairly unadorned with projecting stone cills, monolithic jambs, stone strings and plain stone surrounds are common.
Main Street looking south showing the former Wilsden Coop Building, demolished in 1985

Virtually all buildings in the conservation area are made of locally mined sandstone and gritstone while earlier buildings have stone slate roofs and later buildings use Welsh slate. Stone walls are a common boundary feature, ranging from dry stone walls to dressed stone with copings depending on the type of enclosure. The majority of buildings are two storeys in height, although some feature a third storey as they are built into the hillside.

With the exception of a few farmhouses and mill master’s dwellings, houses face directly onto the road, sometimes with a small front garden and are built at a high density with small back yards or gardens. Development is linear and closely follows the line of the main thoroughfares with a few short dead end streets and lanes leading to nearby hamlets branching off. Roofs are pitched parallel to the road and are not interrupted by dormer or velux windows.

Main Street Showing the formaly Smithy
Main Street showing the former Smithy, at the end of what is now Smithy Lane. This was demolished in 1986.

There is a fine grain of development with different building types and ages sat side by side and few areas dominated by the same building use. At Wilsden Hill, buildings reside in mixed function clusters, typically consisting of farmhouse, barn(s) and cottage(s). The oldest buildings in the conservation area are seventeenth century farmhouses, namely the Grade II Listed Lee Farm and Manor House Farm which both feature vernacular detailing such as coped stone roofs, chamfered openings, dripmoulds, hoodmoulds and rows of windows set between double chamfered mullions.

Most of the former farmhouses adjoining Wilsden Hill Road are set behind fairly large gardens, giving the road an open green aspect which is complemented by the agricultural fields in the vicinity. The few barns in Wilsden have large segmental cart entrances, often chamfered, ventilators, kneelers and a restraint in the number and size of other openings. The agricultural fields between Wilsden Hill and the village constitute the largest open spaces in the conservation area. The paths running through them provide access between the two places while their open and green aspect means they form an important setting and buffer for Wilsden Hill.

The four textile mills in the village which date from the early nineteenth century (Ling Bob Mill, Well House Mill, Spring Mill and Providence Mill) are fairly low rise and elongated but small scale, the main blocks consisting of two or three storeys and architecturally plain with a regular grid of plain stone openings and loading bays. The only mill to date from the late nineteenth century, Prospect Mill, is much larger at three and a half storeys high and five bays by 16-bays in size but is architecturally similar to the older mills. The mill master’s dwellings are the largest in the conservation area and are often set in large gardens. The appearance of these houses is austere with a restraint on external decoration or architectural features.

Ling Bob Public House
The Ling Bob public house with the tower of the former St Matthews church, demolished 1962, in the background.

Royd Park, formerly a mill master’s garden, is a valuable area of formal and recreational parkland at the heart of Wilsden. Many public buildings and institutions are stylised and reflect the changing architectural fashions of the nineteenth century. These include the Regency doorcases and ashlar to 134-136 and 222 Main Street, the Gothic Revival window detailing and roof pitches of Wilsden First School and the former Wesleyan Sunday School and the Italianate openings of Methodist Chapel and manse. A small number of buildings feature traditional shop front details in stone and timber such as pilasters, stallrisers, a wide front doorway, corniced fascia and large windows.

The recent conservation area review made some changes to the boundary to include more of the fields around Wilsden Hill due to their importance in terms of setting, and separating the two settlements. Two of these fields also directly adjoin the Grade II listed crosspaths, which are a unique feature of the conservation area along with the strip of land between Wilsden Primary School and Wilsden Beck due its setting value within the village envelope. Since the original conservation area was designated, housing which is out of sympathy with Wilsden has been built on the fields around Well House Mill and this has now been excluded.

Main Street looking northwards from Dolly Hill

Main Street looking northwards from Dolly Hill. The former Wesleyan Chapel, demolished 1962, is shown in the background.

Water is an intermittent element as Wilsden Beck and its wooded banks form much of the conservation area’s eastern boundary. The mill pond at Ling Bob Mill is an important water feature at the top of Main Street. Crack Lane is the site of large dwellings and the original village school. All of these buildings are well spaced and set back from the lane, giving it an open character which contrasts with the high density of Main Street. The greenery gives the conservation area a soft edge leading to the fields to the east.