FRIENDS Mark Ronan and Harvey Booth dreamed of transforming ruins on a hill into eco homes for their families.
And they have brought buildings steeped in history right into the 21st century.
The pair met when training as joiners at Huddersfield Technical College and worked on various projects around the country before joining forces to set up their own company, Ronan Developments, in 2002.
They envisaged creating an idyllic environment for their families to live in and their dream was realised when they found Upper Bagden Farm perched on a hill top in Clayton West.
The 20-acre site was hugely decayed – its collection of derelict farm buildings had spent years being battered by the elements on the exposed ridge.
Mark and Harvey loved the potential of the Grade II listed site – believed to date back to the reign of King Edward I – which came ingrained with history.
The first people to make Upper Bagden home are believed to have done so because of its defensive advantages. Although the cruck-framed cottage is said to date back to the 12th century, the other farm buildings date from the 18th century.
Harvey had a family connection with Upper Bagden Farm – his grandfather bought it in the 1950s.
It was Cruck Cottage that was to become Harvey and his family’s home, while Mark and his family went for Upper Bagden House, one of the new builds.
With the last farmer long gone, the place had been derelict for years.
Mark said: “We loved the location – the space was fantastic and the views were absolutely stunning.
“But it was a huge challenge. The site was an absolute wreck, it was in an exposed location and unfortunately had been a target for vandals.
“Really we preferred it being a mess because we knew the result was going to be all the more satisfying when we looked at what it was and what it had become.”
Mark and Harvey spent seven years trying to get planning permission until they finally came onto the site in January 2007.
Their plan was to have seven homes and one is still for sale priced at £850,000. Each property was to have around three acres of land and be focused around a single courtyard.
Mark said: “The main cruck building and farm house were still there as well as a few other buildings. The others had been demolished, but they gave us the footprint for the new buildings.
“Everything that could be restored has been. Features we managed to retain include the oak panelling and the original cruck frame, which is very rare to find.”
The huge cruck frame, covered over by previous occupants, was restored with the ‘cinder toffee’ accretions chipped away to reveal beautifully-grained timber beneath.
The high-spec project shows an incredible attention to detail from the original Tudor panelling cleaned by blowing talcum powder at it to the painstakingly-restored wooden door catches.
Mark said: “It was important to us to retain their sense of character and even the new builds were kept as sympathetic as possible.
“If you look back at the history of the site, the buildings tell a story about how they were adapted for use.
Mark and Harvey wanted to continue this tradition of adapting to change by fusing the old and new to create stunning family homes fit for 21st century living.
The open-plan kitchen in Cruck Cottage is a great example of this, supported by the stunning oak beams and glazed floor-to-roof with views across to Emley Moor mast.
In addition to the original features, Mark says all manner of new technologies have been employed.
“We found that the traditional features sat very well with the contemporary features, so we were getting the best of both worlds,’’ he said. “The beauty of some of the features, such as the underfloor heating, is that they are very discreet and help retain the character of the buildings. Music systems are also wired throughout with iPod controls.
“We used a lot of modern technologies. The ground source heating system is quite pioneering and provides 100% of the heating for about £3 a day.”
The families who have moved into the other homes means there is now a little community, including 10 children up to the age of 12.
Mark says: “It’s a super community, a lovely environment for us to bring up our families in. It’s unique and there’s no one person who has been responsible for it – it’s been a real team effort.’’