Dawnay Estate chief retires after 27 years

Robert Sword, recognised nationally as one of the leading managers of a country estate, has retired after 27 years heading the Dawnay Estate.

Monday, 8th June 2020, 10:00 am
Robert Sword.

For generations it was historically focused on farms and cottages Wykeham, Ruston, Hutton Buscel and on vast areas of moorland in the Danby area of the North York Moors National Park.

Today its multi-faceted enterprises employs some 55 people and has a turnover of £6.5 million, as a result of major diversification ventures which include its national award-winning St Helen’s Caravan Park, carved out of a disused quarry, and Wykeham Lakes, created from a sand and quarry and which is now a vast picturesque centre for wildlife, water sports, fishing and walking, and which has becomes one of the leading tourist attractions in the North Yorkshire area.

He joined the Dawnay Estate in 1993 and since then two successful business parks have been established at Wykeham, Fairfield the site of a local sawmill, and Wykeham Business Centre where a complex of disused farm buildings became a state-of-the-art rural business complex, opened by The Duke of York.

They, along with the restoration of an old farm cartshed into a tea room and art centre, have together provided employment and accommodation for some 22 businesses.

Further development came with the creation of Wykeham Mature Plants adjoining the grounds of the family seat, Wykeham Abbey, Dawnay Sporting, Wykeham Shoot and Danby Moors Shooting which attract visitors from all parts of Britain and abroad.

Looking to the future of such long-established estates as Dawnay, Robert said:”Succession is extremely important and the current Viscount Downe, who inherited the estate over 15 years ago, has brought a business ethic to it. Succession in management is also important and the new chief executive David Steel will take the estate onto new heights.

“The challenges are very great but provided diversification of the rural economy is embraced and sympathetic commercial skills are used together with new ideas, the Dawnay Estate will survive the pressure of COVID-19, exiting the EU, dealing with climate change, and investing in the fabric of rural England.”

Lord Downe, the 12th Viscount, said: “After 27 years the estate is saying a fond farewell to Robert.

“Although an estate can sometimes seem like a swan, serenely gliding down a river, nowadays its management involves the delicate balancing of a plethora of tricky, social, financial and environmental issues.

“This Robert has achieved with notable success, his time at Wykeham culminating with the award of the Bledisloe Gold Medal for the Best Managed Estate in England.

“As such he leaves the estate in robust good health and I wish him every happiness in his retirement.”

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