1770’s – Weavers Cottages
Built as a group of weavers’ cottages in the late 1770’s the building known at the turn of the millennium as Ancliff Square was in turn… the Bradford Union Work House from 1836 to 1914… a convalescent home for wounded soldiers during the 1914-18 war…a residential Hotel, known as ‘The Old Court’ between 1922 and 1948…a conversion to 14 self contained flats from 1952 to 1987 when it was developed into 12 separate houses. Changing it’s title to Ancliff Square. Few records remain of its origins as a Weavers Residence: it was reputed to have been built around 1795 by clothier, William Moggeridge, owner of the dunkirk Woolen Mill at Freshford, to house 14 families of hand-loom weavers. With the introduction of machinery into the Weaving Industry, hand-looms became redundant and in 1836, the building was brought and converted into the Bradford Union Work House. A chapel extension was added which also contained the dinning halls and kitchens.
1851 – Work House
The 1851 census recorded that on 30 March there were 249 occupants of the Bradford Work House – 13 officers and 236 paupers’: Twelve of the later were identified as weavers or clothworkers including one Ezekiel Troyford, aged 81, probably one of the many of the buildings previous inhabitants unable to adjust to the ‘Machine Age’. Another clothmaker, Theresa Love, aged 19, may have been responsible for the family discernible inscription LOVE inside the beehive-shaped stone building used as a drying house for the woolen cloth. In Workhouse days, it was used as a lock-up and mortuary. The building ceased to bea workhouse in 1914 and was used briefly as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers. One of the former patients recalled that patriotic inn Keapers in Bradford would often provide the soldiers with free beer and, returning by barge along the canal they were greeted by sympathetic nurses with stretchers to carry the legless back to their wards.
1922 – The Old Court Hotel
Its conversion in 1922, when it became the ‘Old Court Hotel’, saw the chapel converted into a ballroom and restaurant and later, during the second World War, valuable artifacts from the British Museum were stored for safety in its basement The Old Court Hotel closed in 1948 and the building remained empty until 1952.
It was then brought by the Dell family who started converting it into 14 flats. Following 2 more brief changes of ownership, the property was acquired by Anthony & Prudence Dunston in 1971. They moved in in 1972 with their 7 children and spent the next 18 years, using mainly re-claimed materials, to improve the interior of the building.
In 1987 they decided to return the flats into individual homes based on the original weavers cottages. They commissioned Bath architects Tim Organ & Hans Klaeutschi to carry out the project which involved gutting the interior without altering the character of its grade 2 listed facade. Builders PRC took nearly 2 years to complete the development, depositing huge quantities of soil on the 2 acre plot ( originally the work house gardens and site of the school for the children of its inmates).
1993 – Underground House
It was on this piece of land that Anthony Dunston had the idea of using the redundant stone reservoir (which used to supply the workhouse with water) as a possible site for an underground house. He asked Hans Klaentschi, responsible for the Ancliff Square conversion to draw up plans for the project. An application to build it was submitted to the West Wiltshire district Council in November 1993. though it received widespread local support, final planning approval was not given (following a public enquiry) until February 1995.
Construction of the underground house by local builders: Shelland & Winter, began in April 1995 and was completed in august 1997. The Dunston family moved in the beginning of September and began the process of landscaping the huge mound of soil left over from the excavation for the underground dwelling, now named Ancliff Down. Many of the materials used in the re-making of the landscape were stones and pavings from the former workhouse school and from the old reservoir – specifically the stone steps up the banks ( slabs from the floor of the reservoir). Flagstones which had originally paved workhouse floors and the staudary stones, dug up when the site was excavated.
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