Penny Churchill looks at a grand hall near York with an ancient history that is for sale for the first time in six decades.
In Saxon times, the north of the UK, from Edinburgh to York, was covered by more than 100,000 acres of primeval forest that was a happy hunting ground of the Anglo-Saxon kings. Part of the forest came close to the Roman city of York, from where it extended to the north, west and east as far as the River Derwent.
Here, close to the river on rising ground in a large clearing in the forest, stands the ancient village of Bossall, where Bossall Hall is now for sale at £2m. The village is named after the late-7th-century bishop Bosa of York, who reputedly built a church dedicated to St Botolph on the site of the present Grade I-listed village church. Here, too, was a double-moated enclosure surrounding one of the Saxon royal palaces that was succeeded in Norman times by a quadrangular castle, built in the 14th century by Paulinus de Bossall, whose ancestors were granted the manor of Bossall by William the Conqueror.
Although the original village of Old Bossall was one of many villages in Yorkshire wiped out by the plague in 1349, the castle continued to be occupied by Paulinus de Bossall’s descendants before passing to the Redmayne family and later, by marriage, to the Thwaites. In 1623, the manor was acquired by William Belt, whose brother Sir Robert Belt, twice Lord Mayor of York, built the present Bossall Hall sometime before 1644.
According to Historic England, Sir Robert probably demolished the castle walls to provide building materials for the house, although, in 1885, his descendant, W. J. Belt, wrote that foundations of the walls and ‘a barbican of the castle’ were still to be seen.
These historic remnants, still visible as earth-covered banks at the edge of the moat, are now designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Bossall Hall itself, having been largely rebuilt in the 18th century, is listed Grade II. In 1890, the manor of Bossall was acquired by Sir James Walker, 2nd Baronet of Sand Hutton.
For sale for the first time in more than 60 years — at a guide price of ‘excess £2 million’ through Yorkshire agents Blenkin & Co — Bossall Hall stands on the crest of high ground to the west of the Derwent Valley, eight miles from York and 10 miles from the racing town of Malton.
The equestrian history runs deep here: for as far back as the horse world can remember, Bossall Hall has been a stronghold of the famously competitive Middleton pony club, thanks to the dedication of the hall’s owner, Lady Susan Watson, a long-serving district commissioner.
Built of English brick under a plain tiled roof, the wonderfully secluded country house stands in almost 16 acres of lovely gardens, grounds, orchard and paddocks, with a further 14.8 acres of land on the other side of the village road available by separate negotiation.
The well-kept grounds include the medieval moat traversed by three walkways including a brick-built bridge from 1808, a 12ft-high walled kitchen garden and a secret garden accessed through a mature, wisteria-clad timber pergola.
The house, which now needs updating, offers some 10,000sq ft of living accommodation on three floors, including three fine, mainly south-facing reception rooms, a sitting room, a large kitchen/breakfast room, various domestic offices, five bedrooms and four bathrooms.
Additional accommodation is provided in an attached two-storey, three-bedroom cottage, a second-floor loft apartment and a pleasant groom’s flat overlooking the traditional stable courtyard.
Catch up on the best country houses for sale this week that have come to the market via Country Life.
Penny Churchill says that long histories and tranquil settings make Yorkshire’s country houses irresistible