Smeath House, Horbury, my home for twenty years, right through my school and art college days, went on the market today. Looking at Tim Baker’s photographs in the brochure, I can see that the ambience of the place had an effect on the way my work developed. Aged nine, I filled an exercise book with sketches and nature notes including a map of the birds I saw around the shrubberies and lawns.
I can see why I’ve always been fascinated by the Victorian period, surrounded as I was by so many period features. In the 1960s there were still people around, my grandparents for instance, who grew up in the last days of Victorian England. Our era seemed rather colourless and mundane compared with the world of Dickens and Thomas Hardy.
The house was built by the Baines family who were worsted spinners with mills in the valley below. There’s a box-shaped bay window on the west-facing corner of Smeath House which my brother imagines Richard Baines standing at early each morning to check that his foreman had stoked up the fire for the steam engine that drove the machinery.
We met Enid Baines, a daughter of the family, in the late 1950s or early 1960s when she revisited Smeath House. Her mum was then aged 100 but didn’t come with her. I would love to have seen any family photographs showing Smeath House in its Victorian heyday.
Smeath House, Hodsons estate agents
Smeath House Flipbook looks so attractive, I wish that I could afford to make an offer!