A quintessential Yorkshire village where time has stood still attracted an avalanche of offers from all over the country and beyond after being put on the market for £20m.
Now West Heslerton’s fate will be sealed on Friday when it is sold to a farming and real estate company.
The “For Sale” sign went up on the village and surrounding land, near Malton, in April last year following the death of its owner Eve Dawnay. The estate includes a 21-bedroom historic hall, 43 houses, a pub/restaurant, a garage, a sports pavilion and playing fields and over 2,116 acres of surrounding countryside.
The new owner is Albanwise, a long-established business with property interests in London and the Home Counties and farming operations in Norfolk and North Yorkshire. It has offices in Norfolk and in Kirby Grindalythe, near Malton.
The amount paid for West Heslerton is undisclosed but is thought to be the asking price or above as the property attracted a high number of bids. Tom Watson of Cundalls, which handled the sale, described it as “a once in a lifetime opportunity” and added “We had a substantial number of offers and they came from far and wide. We went with the best and most proceedable bid. Albanwise has other local holdings and I believe it will continue to run West Heslerton as a farming estate and let the properties as before.”
Tom Dye, managing director of Albanwise Farming, added: “We are due to complete on the sale on Friday and we are looking forward to incorporating the village and land within our existing North Yorkshire estate.”
There were fears that the village could be sold to developers who would destroy its olde worlde character but Tom Dye has assured residents that Albanwise has “positive intentions”. Eve Dawnay’s family will be pleased to hear it as they were keen to find a buyer who would conserve a bucolic way of life.
Miss Dawnay, an endearingly eccentric Oxford-educated spinster, owned West Heslerton and, thanks to affordable rents and some social engineering, she ensured that it retained a vibrant community supporting a host of amenities, including a primary school and its own football, cricket and bowling teams.
“Miss Dawnay was a wonderful lady,” said Tom Watson. “She was very kind and the property rents are, and have always been, very low. This has helped keep a village community with a mixed group of ages. In many respects time has stood still in West Heslerton. 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.”
The village has been owned by the Dawnay family for 150 years. Eve Dawnay inherited it in 1964 on the death of her father. The total annual rental and agricultural subsidy income of the estate is around £388,000 but Tom Watson believes that there is also room for further income growth without spoiling the character of the village. The jewel at the heart of the estate is 21-bedroom West Heslerton Hall. It hasn’t been lived in for 30 years and now offers the potential to be modernised or converted.
*Eve Dawnay graduated from Oxford University with a BA in French in 1948 and worked in Paris and London before returning to Yorkshire. As well as excelling academically, she was also a skilled craftswoman. When she died in December 2010, aged 84, there was no single heir and the only option for the beneficiaries was to sell. Her sister Verena Elliott said of West Heslerton: “We all loved it. There is a real sense of community, which is hard to find these days.”