hotel gallery picture showing courtyard windows history of Holdsworth House

The History of Holdsworth House

The history of Holdsworth House is as mesmerising as its architecture. Our stunning Jacobean manor dates back to 1633, although there is evidence of a building on the site as far back as 1272. To this day Holdsworth House retains many period features. You'll discover stone mullioned windows, beamed ceilings and impressive fireplaces that all add a sense of calm, comfort and tradition.

INDEPENDENTLY OWNED SINCE 1272

Holdsworth House has always been independently owned. From 1633 to 1963 it was the home to numerous families of wealth and distinction. In 1962 the manor was bought by Rita and Freddie Pearson who opened it to the public in 1963 as The Cavalier Country Club. Today the Pearsons' daughters continue to take an active role in preserving the house's history, character and success. We are proud it is one of Yorkshire's leading four star hotels.

Family tree and history of Holdsworth House west yorkshire
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Late Medieval Period

The site, on which the house now stands, was first mentioned in documents as far back as 1272. The De Aldworth family paid six old pence for 2½ acres of land in the hamlet; the name Aldworth refers to old estate or farm.

Over the centuries, families of wealth and distinction occupied the land. One such owner was the rich but unfortunate Vicar of Halifax - Dr Robert Haldesworth - who was murdered by thieves at Halifax vicarage in 1556. Haldesworth was buried in the south chapel of the magnificent Halifax Parish Church (now Halifax Minster).

Drawing of historic Holdsworth House hotel West Yorkshire

"A fine example of a Calder Valley yeoman’s hall of the immediate post Medieval period"
National Civic Trust,1989

Tudor & Stuart England

The present house was probably built in 1598 although the date stone above the front porch bears the initials and date A.B. 1633.  Abraham Brigg certainly owned the manor about this time, but he is said to have wasted his estate and given way to drink. In 1657 he sold it to Henry Wadsworth of Luddenden and went to keep an alehouse in the town. The Wadsworth family retained possession for more than two hundred years, until 1877.

In 1689 John and Deborah Wadsworth built a new barn. You can see their date stone I.W.D 1680 on the west porch of the courtyard. The barn was re-built in 1797 by their descendent Richard Wadsworth. In 1837 the last direct descendent, Elizabeth Wadsworth, died and the property passed to a distant relation - Matthew Ayrton. Ayrton changed his name to Wadsworth to comply with the terms of Miss Wadsworth’s will. In a nod to the manor's past, we now name a selection of our private dining and meeting rooms to these families.

BRONTË AND ANNE LISTER ERA - C.1800

Portrait Anne Lister
Anne Lister's Shibden Hall Estate, Halifax
Shibden Hall Estate ©Calderdale Museums

In the early 1800s, at the time the Brontë sisters lived and wrote many of their works in nearby Haworth, a spinster called Elizabeth Wadsworth lived at Holdsworth House. As a lady of considerable social standing, Elizabeth Wadsworth was a diarist, landowner and philanthropist. She set up a school for disadvantaged children close to the hotel and in her spare time noted her daily activities, appointments and finances in a series of notebooks and old school jotters.

Wonderfully, most of Wadsworth's diaries have remained intact and are held in the archives department of Halifax Central Library for their preservation.

The Brontës lived in Haworth, approximately eight miles from Holdsworth House. Although they may never have knowingly met, Wadsworth clearly denotes her awareness of the Brontë's father Patrick (who was minister at Haworth Church) through her own church-going connections.

Perhaps more likely is Wadsworth's connection to the Lister family of Halifax, whose fame increased dramatically following the revelations revealed in Anne Lister's diaries, which were written at the same time as Wadsworth's, despite Anne Lister being around 30 years younger than Elizabeth Wadsworth.

Anne Lister's diaries are so well-known because the revealed Lister's closeted gay lifestyle, all written in code which wasn't cracked until decades after her death.

It's possible to read the Anne Lister's and Elizabeth Wadsworth's diary entries side by side to give an amazing insight into life in the early 1800s. The Halifax Antiquarian Society, who transcribed Wadsworth's diaries in 1943, stated, "The diary of Elizabeth Wadsworth completes a trilogy of early 19th century diaries written by local ladies," referring to Anne Lister, Caroline Walker and Wadsworth.

Whilst the content of Wadsworth's diaries are a little 'tamer' than Lister's the similarities in their lifestyles and the crossovers in friends, acquaintances, daily activities, places of worship and are startling. Being that little bit older, it's probable that Wadsworth was more acquainted with Anne lister's aunt and uncle Lister, with whom Anne lived at Shibden Hall.

Anne Lister's notability will only further increase as she is the subject matter of a BBC HBO drama series entitle Gentleman Jack, written by Sally Wainwright, airing in 2019. Many of the scenes were filmed at Shibden Hall, which is just over three miles form Holdsworth House. Stay here on our Discover Anne Lister Break and visit Shibden Hall - you'll see so many similarities for yourself.

Alternatively, Holdsworth House is well-placed for exploring the romantic Brontë Country and magnificent Brontë Parsonage Museum around eight miles from the hotel.

The Cavalier Country Club

Holdsworth House hotel west yorkshire cavalier country club

In the late 19th century Holdsworth House was divided into two dwellings and let to tenants.

There were only three or four further owners until Rita and Freddie Pearson bought the house in 1962. The family, including daughters Gail and Kim, moved in and they worked on plans to establish a thriving business. In 1963 the Rita and Freddie opened the manor as a private members’ club, called The Cavalier Country Club.

The Club proved an immediate success, with over a thousand members. It had an annual fee of seven pounds and seven shillings (about £120 today). Local businessmen used the restaurant to entertain customers and they encouraged Rita and Freddie Pearson to build rooms at the rear of the old house.

In 1964 perhaps the most famous guests of all stayed - The Beatles. You can read about their visit here. The hotel became a hit with celebrities and entertainers thanks to Freddie's London connections and the popularity of the northern club circuit.

Over the next forty years the original eight bedrooms gradually increased to forty. In 2016, guest demand led to the remaining single rooms being knocked together to create some larger Executive Suites. The current room stock stands at thirty-eight.

Rita Pearson died in 1981 and Freddie passed away in 1989. The house was entrusted to the safe hands of the Pearsons' daughters, Gail and Kim, who remain dedicated to its ongoing success and preservation.  In the Nineties the manor’s name was changed back to Holdsworth House to reflect its history and the local address. Today it is proud to be one of Yorkshire’s best, award-winning four-star hotels.