For over 200 years the Gearstones buildings had been a focal point of business and leisure, providing an important place in the social structure and lives of people who live in this bleak but beautiful area.
Formerly used as a public house, market place, travellers in accommodation and latterly as a shooting lodge, it stood unused for over 20 years and was in an advanced state of decay and disrepair. Some seven miles from the nearest village, and like all the surrounding farms, it had no public services in the form of gas, water or sewage disposal. An ancient “cess pit” served as a sewer. Water came from a natural spring over a half a mile up in the fells pipped down the lodge.
A resident of Mirfield came across Gearstones whilst visiting the area, a visit not too unlike Lord Torrington in 1792, and was struck by a vision to use the place for Mirfield school children to stay during weekends and enjoy the surrounding countryside: an alternative to parochial town and urban life.
The “dream” was circulated around Mirfield and gained momentum but the thoughts of this exciting venture raised two major problems. Who was to pay the lodge and who would look after the investment?
Mirfield residents set about raising the sum in an enthusiastic manner and the very large amount was raised through public subscription.Mirfield Secondary Modern School (now Mirfield Free Grammar) agreed to administer the buildings.
Gearstones Lodge building and grounds were purchased through Deeds of Trust on behalf of the residents of the area of Mirfield Urban District Council, as it was then known; charity status was applied for and granted. Gearstones Lodge Charitable Trust was born on the 2nd of June 1972, the “dream” had materialised.
Enthusiastic volunteers, mainly families, friends and children themselves, carried out some repairs and decorations. Approximately 200 to 300 children used the building each year with income not always covering the running costs. In retrospect, and by applying standards required today, habitation conditions were far from ideal.
Structural defects had now become critical along with unacceptable living conditions. A full professional engineer’s survey was ordered and revealed a large amount of work was required to bring the Lodge up to the required standard of structural safety and habitation conditions. Mirfield Educational Charity came to the rescue with a grant for the full cost and designated work was able to commence from September 1979.
The old barn opposite the Lodge, now used as a car park, was demolished to provide stone for the construction of four massive buttresses to remedy structural faults on the rear south wall. A septic tank was installed to provide a new sewer system, windows and doors were replaced, decorations was carried out and the electric storage radiators installed to improve living conditions.Pictures taken from the Engineer’s Survey