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. We have connections to the Anne Lister and Bronte families from the 1800s and 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.
Late Medieval Period
The site, on which the house now stands, was first mentioned in documents as far back as 1272 when 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. The hamlet was originally called Haldworth – a Saxon name. The letter S wasn’t added until the 16th century.
A timber house was erected and in 1432, a lease was granted for ‘Huldisworth Inge’ to a William Greenwood.
"In 1432 a lease was made of 40 years for Huldisworth Inge in the township of Ovenden at 20s a year to William Greenwood of Mixenden by William Otes." (Greenwood Genealogies 1154-1914, privately published in 1915 with no author)
Plans were made for a stone house to replace the timber one. When Greenwood took on the lease he was ordered to pay rent of 1d to the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, a Catholic military charity that cared for the sick, poor and injured. A Maltese cross was included in the house design on the east gable to signify being ‘under the cross’ and its membership of the Order.
The full list of owners of Holdsworth Ing, from 1435-1628, is unclear but it's suspected that 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). We do know that a John Whitley of City Fold in Wheatley, Halifax is known to have paid the Knights of St John rent charge in 1628, so it's likely that he lived here at that time.
"A fine example of a Calder Valley yeoman’s hall of the immediate post Medieval period"
National Civic Trust,1989
Tudor, Stuart & Jacobean England
The Whitley family and the Brigg family were connected by marriage and in 1633 Holdsworth House came into the possession of Abraham Brigg who rebuilt it. The initials AB and date 1633 are carved into the headstone of the porch. Abraham Brigg lived here for over 20 years but is said to have wasted his estate and given way to drink. In 1657 Brigg sold to Henry Wadsworth of Peacock House in Warley and went to keep an alehouse in the town.
We think that Henry Wadsworth bought Holdsworth House for his youngest son John Wadsworth to eventually inherit. John was one of three sons and was born in 1635. He lived here with his wife Deborah. Henry Wadsworth and his elder son Abraham bought up lots more land and houses, including Jumples Mill, Gridlestone Bank, Lane Farm and Fold Farm/Mixenden Hall at Illingworth. As wealthy landowners the Wadsworths were an important Warley family. John Wadsworth was thought to be a Quaker as there’s evidence he obtained a license for Quaker Meetings to be held at Holdsworth House. As a result they were considered to be dissidents of the church.
John and Deborah Wadsworth made considerable changes to Holdsworth House. They built the barn (today its The Stuart Room) their date stone bearing the inscription I.W.D. 1680 is in the barn wall. (The barn was however rebuilt in 1892 by a Richard Woodhead). John and Deborah had a daughter Elizabeth (year of birth unknown) and one son Henry Wadsworth (born 1697) as well as three infant daughter deaths. Deborah died 1 July 1697 – the year of Henry’s birth.
In that same year John went on to marry widow Hannah Hollings – daughter of James Chadwick of Warley who lived at a prestigious address – the Hill. They had a daughter Susannah who died unmarried. John Wadsworth died May 10, 1715 when he was 60 and Hannah died in 1731, she left Holdsworth House to her stepson Henry Wadsworth who was now 18. Henry’s sister, Elizabeth, went on to marry into the clergy in Illingworth.
GEORGIAN ENGLAND - C.1750
Henry Wadsworth kept Holdsworth House for 50 years and may have been responsible for its interior woodwork and paneling as was popular in the Georgian times. By 1720 he'd married a woman named Mary and had a son John Wadsworth and daughter Esther. Esther married into the clergy at Thornton but returned to Holdsworth House in 1799 when her husband Reverend Joseph Thwaites died.
Henry died in 1765 aged 68 and is buried in Halifax Parish Church in the family vault. His son John inherited the house and, uniquely, after having a university education took a role in the church at Coley, around 13 miles from Holdsworth House, travelling there by pony along the bridal paths.
In 1750 the now Reverend John Wadsworth married Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Hemmingway of Boldshay Hall – a large estate near Bradford, which was home to several families of influence in the district. The Hemmingways were moneylenders and solicitors and so amassed considerable wealth. John and Elizabeth had three sons (Henry 1754, John 1755 and Samuel 1757) they had one daughter Miss Elizabeth Wadsworth born 15 November 1760. Elizabeth was schooled at the Manor in York and wrote diaries 1817-1829 at the same time as two other local diarists – Caroline Walker and Anne Lister – who were also educated at the Manor school in York, albeit at different times.
Samuel died of consumption in 1774 at Holdsworth House, aged just 18. Rev John Wadsworth died in 1782, aged 62. As the eldest, it was son Henry Wadsworth who inherited Holdsworth House. He lived a bachelor existence here alone as Elizabeth, John and their mother went to live at Stott Hill in Bradford. Henry though died, whilst studying medicine, we believe, in Edinburgh. John died in 1800 and the estate of Holdsworth House passed to Elizabeth, but she spent much of her time between Bradford and Halifax, whilst Holdsworth House was let to a tenant. Elizabeth’s mother died in 1804, leaving Elizabeth alone. She came back to Holdsworth House, aged 45.
BRONTË AND ANNE LISTER REGENCY ERA - C.1800
Her church-going family was socially well connected and Elizabeth Wadsworth knew many prestigious local families. Her detailed diaries, many of which have survived today (and are held on deposit at West Yorkshire Archive Service), provide a wonderful insight into her financial affairs and daily routines. There is evidence Wadsworth knew the Lister family of Shibden Hall and the Bronte family of Haworth.
“The diary of Elizabeth Wadsworth completes a trilogy of early 19th century diaries written by local ladies, all covering the same period but viewing its events from different angles. Anne Lister wrote from 1815 to 1840, Caroline Walker from 1812 to 1830; and Elizabeth Wadsworth from 1817 to 1829.” (Halifax Antiquarian Society 1943)
Elizabeth lived at Holdsworth House for 33 years, was very wealthy and exceedingly philanthropic (Anne Lister’s diaries report Miss Wadsworth having an income of £700 per year). Wadsworth built the Popples school in 1815 and visited regularly, herself teaching in an emergency. Elizabeth also established the Ovenden Female Benefit Society and engaged all the ladies of the district as honorary members. She was on personal terms with all the important people of the district – the church and Halifax Minster clergy, the Watkinsons, Turneys, Mitchells, Ramsdens and the Birks Hall family. As a staunch churchgoer, Elizabeth donated most of the money required to build Bradshaw Church.
Anne Lister of nearby Shibden Hall was also a wealthy landowner, spinster and diarist, of similar social standing to Miss Wadsworth. Lister was a more prolific diarist and became posthumously famous because parts of her lengthy diaries were in secret code. The code, once deciphered, revealed a number of Anne Lister’s lesbian love interests, which were considered shocking at the time.
It was the work of local historian Helena Whitbread who spent over 30 years decoding Lister's diaries. Watch a film of Helena Whitbread speaking at Holdsworth House here. Anne Lister has since been the subject of a number of TV dramas, the latest i9s the BBC One/HBO costume drama Gentleman Jack. You can read an excellent BBC page on Anne Lister and the filming of Gentleman Jack here.
Despite being older than Lister when she began writing diaries (Elizabeth was 57 and Anne was 24), it is possible to cross reference dates and events in both Wadsworth and Listers' diaries. Elizabeth notes many of the family names mentioned by Lister. On 27 August 1787, Elizabeth writes:
‘Agreeable to an invitation from Dr [James] Crowther I had a pleasant ride with Miss Bainbridge and him to Lightcliffe, where at the opening of an organ in the Chapel we heard the Oratorio of the Messiah well performed, and when it was ended we were introduced by Dr Crowther to Mr. and Mrs. Walker of Crownest [sic], and partook of an elegant cold entertainment given by Mr. Walker to a large company on the occasion. The regale consisted of geese, ducks, chien, hams. Tongues, roast beef, etc., in charges, placed up the sides of a long table, with warm peas, potatoes etc., in a row up the middle were a rich variety of sweetmeats, jellies, flummery, made dishes, etc., and the garden flowers of the season were blended and skillfully disposed here and there in pots between the dishes.”
The Walkers of Crow Nest had a daughter, Ann Walker, who later lived at Shibden Hall with Anne Lister as her ‘wife’, lover and companion. Read our blog on for more on Anne Lister and the Brontes
Elizabeth died in 1837 aged 77 having never married and childless. Her resting place is at Calverley Church. At the time of her death, she owned considerable property in the area. She left Holdsworth House to a young boy (and possibly distant relation) Matthew Ayrton, in the trust of his parents David Ayrton and Hannah Burleigh. Her will required Matthew to change his name to Henry Wadsworth when he came of age and for Holdsworth House to be kept in the family through inheritance.
VICTORIAN ENGLAND - C.1850
Matthew Henry Wadsworth (formerly Matthew Aryton) lived his life at Holdsworth House and married a Sarah Firth. Matthew died 19 October 1860 aged 43 leaving his widow and six children. He died relatively poor and instructed that his assets be sold and the money used to look after his family. However Holdsworth House – under the instruction of Elizabeth Wadsworth – had to pass to his eldest son John Henry Wadsworth.
John trained as an architect but wasn’t very successful and the value of the family estate dwindled. Holdsworth House and its contents were passed down to Henry Hodgeson Wadsworth who became a solicitor and emigrated to Canada.
In 1877 the house’s inventory was amassed and subsequently the house was divided and let to tenants, the West side by Mr. Sam Brenard and the eastern side by Mr. E H Moore – a well known local musician. Holdsworth House was sold in 1895 to Richard Ayrton Woodhead (John Henry Wadsworth’s cousin) and let to tenants.
The Cavalier Country Club
In around 1910 the house sold again to Mr. Norman Crawshaw and then around 1930 to Mr. Neville Hoole who never occupied it but sold to Mr. T A Hoyle.
In 1962 a local family, Rita and Freddie Pearson and their two young children Gail and Kim, bought Holdsworth House. The family 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, The Cavalier Country Club – a private member’s club and casino in April 1963. Membership numbered more than a thousand with an annual fee of seven guineas; it was most definitely the place to be seen.
Astonishingly, Freddie and Rita had absolutely no experience of employing catering staff. They used a London agency to hire a 23-year-old Spanish chef, Pepe Palomar, and a restaurant team directly from Europe. They chose well and the brigade worked brilliantly, giving the restaurant a touch of continental pizazz... although it’s not hard to imagine what the team thought about the Yorkshire winter weather.
The members encouraged Rita and Freddie to offer accommodation which they started doing 1964. The first guests to stay overnight came through Freddie’s London connections, when he invited The Beatles to stay on 9th October 1964, when they performed in Bradford as part of their first British tour.
Over the years the Pearson family have added to the number of rooms and communal areas. The hotel now boasts 36 bedrooms and a number of function rooms all made with local materials and in keeping with the original house.
Rita Pearson died in 1981 and Freddie passed away in 1989. The Cavalier Country Club was renamed Holdsworth House Hotel in the 1980s by the Pearson’s daughters, Gail and Kim.
Today as a Grade II* Listed building the team is committed to preserving not only its architecture and history but maintaining the sense of quality and service that the manor house has been accustomed to. Such characteristics and appreciation of tradition have ensured Holdsworth House remains the most successful independent hotel, wedding venue and – in more recent times TV film set – in the area
Countless celebrities have stayed at Holdsworth House, most famously The Beatles who visited on 9th October 1964 - John Lennon’s 24th birthday.
The Pearson family had to vacate their own bedrooms to accommodate the Fab Four and manager, Brian Epstein. All hotel staff were sworn to secrecy because Rita Pearson was afraid the gardens would be trampled by thousands of screaming fans.
The group arrived late on 9th October 1964, following a concert at the Gaumont Theatre in Bradford - the opening night of their only British tour. The local police blocked the road at Bradshaw, causing a diversion and sending fans in the wrong direction, thus allowing easy access to Holdsworth House for The Beatles.
John Lennon and Ringo Starr slept in the room that is now an office; Paul McCartney and George Harrison stayed in the Ayrton Room - now a private dining room. The band took room service in the Ayrton Room, dining on turtle soup and steak Diane. The Italian head waiter, Luigi, wrote their order (a copy of which can be found on the reception wall) referring to the band as ‘The Beetles’.
To this day Holdsworth House continues to welcome famous faces who are performing in the northern theatres or filming in the West Yorkshire area.