Estate agents dealing with the sale of an entire English village say they have been inundated with inquiries despite the £20 million price tag.
West Heslerton, near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, has been put up for sale – including its 21-bedroom mansion, 43 houses, a pub, a range of other buildings and more than 2,000 acres of farmland. The village has been owned by the same family for generations but a decision has finally been taken to sell following the death of Eve Dawnay, the last owner, five years ago, at the age of 84. Miss Dawnay’s benevolent management of West Heslerton has meant very little has changed among the rented cottages for 50 years.
Tom Watson, director of Cundalls, the estate agents handling the sale, explained that a sale was the best option given that Miss Dawnay had no single heir. He said that the family would like sell to someone who shared her philosophy towards the people of the village. But, he stressed, it would be an open sale available to all potential buyers.
“We’ve had an incredible amount of interest already,” Mr Watson said. “My phone’s been ringing off the hook. We’ve had about 50 requests for details already.”
Mr Watson – who went to the village primary school – said: “It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity.” He said: “She was very kind and the property rents are, and have always been, very low. This has helped keep a vibrant village community with a mixed group of ages and there are obviously a lot of people hoping that somebody with a similar benevolent nature will come along to take over the estate. It would be perfect for somebody wanting to build up and leave a legacy. The estate has been very much untouched in the past 50 years and is now a blank canvas, ready to be shaped for the next generation. Of course, there can be no denying that the estate is also going to be very attractive to developers and investors as, in many respects, time has stood still in West Heslerton. There are now endless possibilities – be it to convert buildings, develop possible plots and commercial opportunities – but I know that in an ideal world Miss Dawnay’s family would really like to see the estate carry on in a similar vein.”
Miss Dawnay inherited the estate in 1964. It has been in her family for 150 years. But she moved out of West Heslerton Hall 30 years ago and it has not been lived-in since. The hall is the centrepiece of the £20 million offer which also includes Miss Dawnay’s purpose-built four-bedroom home and even the village petrol station and more than 100 acres of woodland. Mr Watson wondered whether the sale would boost lottery ticket sales in the area. He said: “This really will be a dream purchase for somebody and it will be interesting to see how the new owners manage the estate going forward”.
Miss Dawnay’s sister, Verena Elliott, said: “We all loved it and it would be very hard to find a village with more loyal and lovely people living in it. There is a real sense of community which is hard to find these days. “There are generations and generations of families who have lived in estate houses. There was a time when nobody ever seemed to move away.” Mrs Elliott’s daughter Bridget still lives in the village and has been the shepherd on the estate. She said: “I can’t say strongly enough, though, what the village and the people who have lived there meant to my family. The loyalty of those villagers has been tremendous. It will be strange to return and not be able to just wander around like I always have; that it will belong to somebody else. But times have changed. especially when it comes to farming, and it will be lovely to see new life breathed into the estate.”