AN historic Ribble Valley house which has not been lived in for more than 100 years is to be turned back into a family home.

Townhead, the former home of the Wigglesworth family, has been on English Heritage’s Register of Buildings at Risk, for more than a decade.

The 16-bedroomed house in Slaidburn, which was built in 1729, has remained a hidden gem since it was last used as a shooting lodge at the outbreak of the Second World War.

But semi-retired businessman Robert Staples said he was looking forward to the challenge of returning the building to its former glory.

Planning chiefs at Ribble Valley Borough Council have just given him the go-ahead to refurbish the house together with its service wing.

Mr Staples’ plans also include constructing a swimming pool and relocating a glass house within the property’s walled garden.

Work is also being undertaken to reinstate lost gardens, paths and walls to restore the 19th century scheme.

The revamp of the grade II listed Georgian mansion has been welcomed by bosses at English Heritage, the government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment.

Mr Staples, who is currently living in nearby Rathmore, said what he really wanted was to return the house to its original purpose of a “gentlemen’s country estate.”

The work is expected to take around three years, but Mr Staples, who originally hails from Yorkshire, said he intended to make the house his home.

He said: “I love old buildings and Townhead hasn’t been touched since 1939 when it was used as a shooting lodge.

“It is my gift to myself and it will remain a house.”

Mr Staples is planning to downsize the number of rooms to create six bedrooms, converting some of the current bedrooms into bathrooms.

He said: “The works will ensure that the integrity and longevity of Townhead is not compromised and that the building has a continued and long future.”

A spokesperson for the English Heritage, said: “We are pleased the new owner is dedicated to sympathetic renovations which would return the house to a family dwelling.”


>>Townhead is highly visible in Slaidburn as it is situated on rising ground to the north of the village.

>>It was considered significant enough to be described in directories and histories as a separate hamlet.

>> It was built in 1729 by Henry Wigglesworth using materials from an earlier house on the site which was incorporated into the new building.

>>Significant alterations were carried out in the early 19th century as the property changed ownership from the Wigglesworths to the King-Wilkinsons at auction in 1855.

>>The house has not been occupied in living memory although there was a full time housekeeper and shooting parties between the 1890s and 1938.

>>Much of the history of the house was lost when a bomb fell on the owner’s Blackburn offices.

Click here to view pictures from inside and outside the the historic property.