Building of the Month April 2021: Former Home Guard Club, 4 Belford Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG1 1JA

The former Home Guard Club in the “Belford Quarter” immediately south of Harrogate’s town centre has had a varied history since it was built around 1870. Located on the corner of Tower Street and Belford Road, the building is opposite the c.1868 Gothic style grade II listed Roger's Almshouses. It sits within the Harrogate Town Centre Conservation Area and is considered a non-designated heritage asset. With its central location and characterful features, it is crying out for a new owner to undertake a sensitive conversion.

It is a two-storey detached building of solid stone and brick construction all of which, except for the west-facing gable wall, have been rendered. It has a splayed corner to the north east featuring a corbelled corner window and an Italianate style doorway to Belford Road, with decorative barge board and facias to the street elevations. There is a large circle moulding within the gable end and upper level of the north elevation which originally contained masonic symbols. Old photos also indicate the building once had decorative gable end woodwork and dormers, all now lost. The roof is of multi-pitch construction covered in blue slates.  The original vaulted Victorian ceilings to the upper floor were hidden for much of its recent life by a modern suspended ceiling. A small cellar exists which occupies about a quarter of the building’s footprint.  

It was originally two cottages and was contemporary with the terraced houses on Tower Street, though built in a different style to its neighbours. The residential use didn’t last long and in 1873 the cottages were purchased and converted into Harrogate’s first cottage hospital, which stayed there for ten years before moving in 1883 into a new purpose-built building next door, which is now St. Peter's School.

The property was then purchased by the Masons, who extended the building by adding a cross-wing to the northern end and creating two large halls with vaulted ceilings on the first level. It served as Harrogate's Masonic Hall from 1884 to c.1930, when they also moved to new purpose-built premises.

After the Masons vacated the building, it was reportedly used as offices until the end of the Second World War when it became the Home Guard Club, and later the 'Home Guard Snooker Club'. A notice attached to the wall in the entrance lobby refers to the 5th West Riding Battalion (Home Guard) Old Comrades Association and Club. From the mid 1980s the ground floor began being used as business offices again.

Lack of maintenance meant that by 2008 the roof was considered beyond repair, however, the Club did not have the funds to replace it. Harrogate Council commissioned a survey of the building which confirmed the state of the building, though the general structure was considered stable. By 2012 dry rot had set in on the ground floor and with no money to do repairs, the Club was forced to close and disband in 2015 and the building sold to a developer in 2017.

The developer submitted two applications (2017 and 2018) to demolish the building and construct new apartments, but both were withdrawn. The applications claimed the building is no longer structurally sound, however, the Council used their own 2009 structural survey to show the owners had not made efforts to secure the building and, based on the NPPF direction that ‘cases of deliberate neglect should not in itself justify demolition’, indicated that the applications were likely to be refused.

The building has been put on the market again (March 2021) with Feather Smailes and Scales.