TV Penelope's £500k pit stop: The stunning home that actress Penelope Keith created from scratch - before reluctantly moving on

  • Potential owners of Beckside House could claim to be To The Manor Born
  • Property in Wycoller, Lancashire, was built by sitcom's star Penelope Keith
  • Three-bedroom Beckside House has now gone on market for £525,000 

They might not be buying a stately home, but potential owners of Beckside House could certainly claim to be To The Manor Born.

That’s because the pretty property in the Lancashire village of Wycoller was originally built by the sitcom’s star Penelope Keith nearly a quarter of a century ago after she and her husband, Rodney Timson, fell in love with the historic hamlet just on the border with West Yorkshire.

In fact, so enamoured was Penelope with Wycoller that she even featured it in her popular Channel 4 series Hidden Villages, long after she had left it – and Beckside House – for pastures new.

Beckside House was originally built by actress Penelope Keith nearly a quarter of a century ago after she and her husband, Rodney Timson, fell in love with the historic hamlet

They might not be buying a stately home, but potential owners of Beckside House could certainly claim to be To The Manor Born - which has gone on the market for £250,000

Present owners Peter and Denise Shoesmith bought the property from Penelope 15 years ago.

The actress, who also starred in the hit comedy The Good Life, did not initially want to let it go, preferring to rent it rather than sell.

But the Shoesmiths had fallen for Beckside House in a big way and Penelope – displaying much more heart than her flinty Good Life character Margo Leadbetter – was persuaded to let them make it their own.

‘At the time Penelope built it, she and her husband were living in a cottage next door but they wanted to have something bigger,’ says Peter, a retired City trader.

‘There was a barn on the site and they used the remnants of it to build their new house.’

The development was carried out carefully and in keeping with planning restrictions in the village, says Peter. ‘The stone from the barn was reused and other materials were brought in from across Yorkshire to ensure it was properly done.’

So although Beckside House – which is now on the market for £525,000 – is built in a traditional style, it comes with extremely high specifications.

It has three spacious bedrooms and a roomy, tiled-floored kitchen/diner, plus a separate dining room.

It sits in extensive grounds that also contain a large double garage – the building could be used as a separate office. The property is surrounded by high walls and accessed by a driveway that opens up into a courtyard.

AT A GLANCE 

Price £525,000

Location Wycoller, Lancashire

Bedrooms Three, one en suite

Unique features Built 25 years ago by actress Penelope Keith from local stone and traditional materials on the site of an old barn; high walls around the property and extensive grounds; a copse, to be sold under separate negotiation, containing ruins of two cottages.

The privacy of Beckside House is what attracted the Shoesmiths – Peter says that after a busy week in the Square Mile, it was always a relief to enjoy the seclusion of their property. 

But that doesn’t mean the detached house is remote. It’s within Wycoller, which Peter says has a thriving community of professional people. In fact, there is such a sense of belonging that the Shoesmiths regularly go on holiday with other people from the village.

Wycoller has a rich history with even more claims to fame than Penelope Keith.

A ruined country house in the village is said to have been the inspiration for Ferndean Manor, the property to which Mr Rochester relocated after fire destroyed his home of Thornfield Hall in Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre.

Indeed, Haworth, home of the Bronte sisters, is just a short drive – or even a good walk, for those feeling hardy – across the moors.

Meanwhile, the Pack-Horse Bridge that crosses burbling Wycoller Beck was made famous in the film The Railway Children, as Bobbie, played by a young Jenny Agutter, sits on it dreaming of the day her father will come home. 

The 1970 film was shot around the local area, including on the Keighley and Worth Valley railway line, just a few miles from Wycoller. Steam trains still run regularly on the line.

The home boasts three spacious bedrooms and a roomy, tiled-floored kitchen/diner, plus a separate dining room

‘We feel very lucky to live here,’ says Peter. ‘It’s a beautiful village in stunning countryside, and the house is absolutely perfect.’

But with their children having grown up and moved away, the Shoesmiths feel it’s time for them to try something new in another property, while staying within travelling reach of their friends in the village.

Adjacent to the grounds at Beckside House is a copse that is the subject of separate negotiations to the main property – and which could provide a development opportunity for an ambitious new owner.

‘There are two old cottages in the copse in a very tumbledown state, but the potential is there for someone to perhaps look at doing something with them, subject to planning regulations and permissions,’ says Peter.

The restrictions on this idyllic corner of Lancashire are definitely designed to make life as peaceful as possible for the villagers. Only residents are allowed to bring a car into Wycoller, meaning there’s no disturbance from traffic.

But despite the sense of walled-in privacy of Beckside House and the splendid isolation of the village, Wycoller has decent transport links. Just a few miles away is the M65 motorway, which connects to Preston and beyond via the M6 and M61.

Even the difficult-to-please Audrey fforbes-Hamilton – Penelope’s down-on-her-luck upper-crust lady in To The Manor Born – would have to see the positive side.

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