As the wheels of North Yorkshire’s country-house market start to turn again, the launch onto the market of a handful of notable houses recalls the heyday of the county’s great landed estates and the families who made them tick. In many cases, of course, they still do.
Stainley House, North Yorkshire, £3.5m
For sale through the Harrogate office of Strutt & Parker (01423 561274) at a guide price of £3.5 million, Stainley House at South Stainley, between Harrogate and Ripon, was built in 1906, at a cost of £12,184 11s 1d, by the 14th Viscount Mountgarret as a dower house for his mother on the 2,000-acre Mountgarret estate, still home to one of North Yorkshire’s finest shoots.
In 1970, it became the home of the eccentric and autocratic 17th Viscount Mountgarret, who moved there following a substantial renovation, having sold the family seat, Nidd Hall at nearby Ripley. He lived there until shortly before his death in February 2004, when it was bought by the current vendors.
Life for the 17th Viscount revolved around his passions for shooting, stalking, cricket and golf. His Daily Telegraph obituary highlights his most famous exploit, which took place in 1982, when he fired at a hot-air balloon that drifted over his grouse moor on Hardcastle Moor at the start of a drive, hitting the pilot and peppering the balloon with holes.
He was found guilty by magistrates of ‘acting recklessly in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft’ and fined £1,000 —an outcome that was probably less painful than the temporary withdrawal of his shotgun licence the following year.
Nowadays, life at Stainley House is rather less dramatic, although its larger-than-life former owner is remembered with affection by the present incumbents, who have named their labrador Garret in tribute.
Set at the end of a long tree-lined drive, the handsome, rendered-brick house stands in 11 acres of gardens and grounds, its tranquillity protected by a covenant restricting the use of the adjoining park and farmland to grazing and arable use only. Another covenant allows the owner of the Mountgarret estate to run his hounds across the drive of Stainley House should the need arise.
The uniquely picturesque and privileged setting of Stainley House, withits cottage, staff flat, and stable courtyard(with planning consent for conversion), will allow the next owner to enjoy the life of a Yorkshire squire, but without the angst.
The house has been well maintained and has changed little, retaining its original oak flooring and doors, shutters and staircase; the beautiful Georgian fireplaces in the drawing room and dining room were brought from Nidd Hall by the 17th Viscount.
Stainley House has a manageable 10,149sq ft of living space, including three main reception rooms, a playroom and cinema, a large kitchen/breakfast room, three bedroom suites, six further bedrooms and three bathrooms.
Beckley House, on the North York Moors, £3.5m
A guide price of £3.5m is also quoted by York-based Blenkin & Co (01904 671672) for Beckdale House at Helmsley, on the edge of the North York Moors, another fine country house with impeccable land- owning connections. Originally built as a dower house on the Duncombe Park estate, Beckdale House was home for a number of years to the 6th Lord Feversham, who inherited part of the 13,000-acre estate—it includes one of the finest pheasant shoots in England— on his seventh birthday in 1952.
At that time, the family seat, Duncombe Park, was leased to St Mary’s school for girls, but when the lease expired in 1985, Lord and Lady Feversham were able to reclaim and restore the family mansion. Meanwhile, the present owner of Beckdale House had seen a mention of the planned return to Duncombe Park in the local paper and seized the opportunity to buy the house quietly before anyone knew what had happened.
The new owner immediately set about improving and extending the house, which has 7,500sq ft of accommodation, including entrance and staircase halls, three reception rooms, two conservatories, a billiards room, five bedrooms and five bathrooms. Ancillary buildings include a garage block for five cars with two self-contained flats, a two-bedroom cottage, a stable block and a dog house.
Set in 18 acres of splendid formal gardens, paddocks and woodland, overlooking Helmsley Castle and the Duncombe Park estate, with the River Rye flowing through the surrounding wooded hills, Beckdale House boasts a location second to none, with the added bonus of Ampleforth College nearby.
Firby Hall, Bedale, £4.6m
The area around the historic North Yorkshire town of Bedale is a foxhunter’s dream—a grassland paradise where Strutt & Parker (01423 561274) quote a guide price of £4.6m for the impeccably renovated Firby Hall set in 57 acres of gardens and parkland. The hall was built in 1788 by Col Thomas Coore, who, on his return from fighting in the American War of Independence, demolished much of the village to build the house and improve his view over the lakes and open fields of the surrounding countryside.
A portrait by Zoffany, painted some 20 years earlier, shows Col Coore as a young lieutenant fishing on the banks of the River Nidd with John Yorke, his friend and fellow landowner. Firby Hall was in serious need of repair when the present owner bought it in 2009, and transformed the Grade II -listed building into a modern country house of rare distinction, with landscaped gardens designed by Marco Schrang, garaging for eight cars and stabling for four horses.
The main house has accommodation on three floors, including three reception rooms, a kitchen/diner, offices, three bedroom suites, three double bedrooms and three bathrooms, plus a gun room, a wine store and a four-bedroom cottage.
St Nicholas, Richmond, £1.95m
Romantic St Nicholas, listed Grade II, at Richmond, North Yorkshire, was founded as a medieval hospital, but largely rebuilt in Tudor times; it’s said to be the town’s oldest continuously inhabited house.
For years, it was the home of Lady Serena James, only child of the 10th Earl of Scarborough, who moved there on her marriage in 1923 to the Hon Robert ‘Bobbie’ James, who, in 1900, laid out the seven acres of glorious gardens for which St Nicholas is famous. When Lady Serena died in 2000, aged 99, St Nicholas was bought by Yorkshire sportsman Keith Schellenberg and his wife, Jilly, who have continued to maintain the Grade II -listed gardens ‘in the spirit of Bobbie James’.
For sale through Knight Frank (01423 530088) at a guide price of £1.95m, St Nicholas stands in 49 acres of parkland, paddocks and woodland, with spectacular views over pastures grazed by Highland cattle towards the ruins of Easby Abbey, the River Swale and the Hambleton Hills beyond. The house has four main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast broom, five/six bedrooms, five bathrooms, and an integral two-bedroom flat.