A Leeds building with an intriguing past will soon be setting youngsters in the city on the path to a bright future.
Sycamore Lodge in Hyde Park dates back to the 1860s and has a place in history as the reported location of the first ever telephone call to be made in the UK.
The Grade II listed building has recently fallen into a state of disrepair but now has new owners who are redeveloping it for use as a private childcare nursery.
Graham and Amika Abbott are investing £2m transforming the Woodhouse Cliff site into Tiny Tree Day Nursery, which will have 160 places for children aged up to five.
And the Abbotts are confident their new venture – which is expected to create 45 jobs in its first year – will mirror the success of highly-regarded nurseries they already run in Huddersfield and Oldham.
Graham said: “The building is stunning and it will be a great environment for children and staff alike. We haven’t touched the exterior but there has been a huge amount of work to do on the inside. It’s been empty for around five years.
“The site also has around half-an-acre of outdoor space, which is a big bonus.”
It is hoped that the nursery will be open for business this June. Work on its renovation is being headed up by Leeds-based Kelson Interiors.
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The UK’s first phone call was reputedly made at Sycamore Lodge in 1876 by young brothers Charles and James Bedford.
Keen on science, they are said to have constructed two replicas of US-based inventor Alexander Graham Bell’s new telephone using a description published in a magazine.
The ensuing call between the replica phones was reportedly made on wire running from the attic of the brothers’ home at Sycamore Lodge to a workshop 30 yards away in the building’s grounds.