East Riddlesden Hall

I walked about East Riddlesden Hall this month. This is fine country house built during my favourite historical period: the mid-seventeenth-century. Halifax clothier, James Murgatroyd, constructed it in 1642 and then enlarged it six years later. While much of the country was suffering from the ravages of civil war, this little corner of Keighley was being turned into a place of pleasant architectural sophistication. Murgatroyd was a committed royalist but does not seem to have suffered too badly for being on the losing side.

Much as I love the period’s politics and styles, the house is so very dark. Mullioned windows are designed to hinder the house breaker, but they also hinder the passage of light. The heavily varnished floorboards, wainscoting and heavy, black-coloured wooden furniture absorb what little light the narrow windows deign to admit. It is possible that over-varnished furniture darkens with time, and that the panels, chairs and tables were a little lighter in the century of construction. Be that as it may, older houses were designed to keep safe their occupants and their belongings, and this came at the expense of illumination. There may be better examples of this than East Riddlesden, for some of its windows are unusually large, but the visitor is still essentially traipsing around a dark, old house.

I sometimes talk about how our churches ought to be places of light and truth, where Jesus, the Light of the World, is both known and made known. Yet our primary place of worship is our home. This is where we spend our quiet time with the Lord, meditate upon His word, and entertain the saints and even angels unaware. May our homes be truly places of light as well as warmth, of truth as well as shelter.

The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the home of the just. Proverbs 3:33