Of all the old large houses in Lightcliffe, probably the least known is Holme House in Wakefield Road. As a twelve-year-old delivering newspapers there for Leonard Hall, of what is now Lightcliffe Post Office [it ceased to be the post office, and became Lightcliffe Store, in 2009; in May 2012 it became Lightcliffe Tea Rooms on The Stray] I little realised that in less than a dozen years I would own part of this former mill owner’s mansion.
Sometimes, as I sit in my garden under the summer sun, I allow my imagination to drift back to 1864, when the owner of Holme House, Henry Ripley, of Ripley’s dyeworks in Bradford, President of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, played host to a most important visitor. At ten minutes past six on the evening of Monday, 8 August 1864 Lightcliffe Railway Station saw the arrival of The Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Palmerston KG, GCB, MP, First Lord of the Treasury and Prime Minister. The purpose of the visit was lay the foundation stone of the new Bradford Wool Exchange at a ceremony on the following day.
As the train pulled into the small station at Lightcliffe, opened some fifteen years earlier on August 7th 1850, he was met by Mr Ripley and his son William. The station was festooned with flags and bunting; the village of Lightcliffe was not accustomed to such prominent visitors. He had travelled from London to Wakefield on an ordinary Great Northern train and then transferred to a special train on the Lancashire Yorkshire Railway. As he reached the platform he couldn't have failed to notice the fluttering Royal Standard attached to the roof of one of the small station's buildings.
It was reported at the time that he looked tired as he alighted from the train and walked the short distance across the lines to Mr. Ripley's waiting carriage in Wakefield Road. He was accompanied by the shouts and cheers of the villagers, eager, in the early evening sunshine, to catch a glimpse of their leader, but was no doubt pleased to be driven the short distance to Holme House.
Looking out of the front windows at Holme House the following morning Lord Palmerston would have been dismayed to see the rain which had fallen throughout the night continuing to pour, hardly the weather to attract crowds to the opening ceremony.