If you’d like to play Downton Abbey with a real-life English village under your lordly control, that’s now possible. The 2,000-acre West Heslerton in North Yorkshire is now for sale, and it comes with 375 people.
“It’s not quite the Downton Abbey of the north but something quite close should ensure strong interest from North America,” a British buying agent and property commentator named Henry Pryor speculated to NBC News.
He added that “enthusiasm for all things British” could bump up the price.
The price for this English village is already pretty steep at $28.5 million; the estate agency selling West Heslerton expects a sale in four to 12 weeks. Tom Watson, the director of the Cundalls agency, thinks someone will buy it to either “play lord of the manor” or for “investment and development opportunities.”
So how, exactly, does an entire English village go up for sale? All it takes is one eccentric, unmarried English lady with no heirs.
That English lady is Eve Dawnay, who died in 2010 at 84 with no husband or children. Called “particularly kind” by the chairman of the Heslerton parish council, Bernard Cole, Eve was bequeathed the town by her father when he died in 1964, the Guardian reported.
It has been in the philanthropic family for 150 years, but Eve’s sister, Verena Elliot, said changing times led them to put it up for sale. Although it’s “not the prettiest of villages,” generations of Dawnays have loved it, and the family hopes the new owner will preserve its charm, according to the Telegraph.
Play ‘Lord Of The Manor’ In This Charming English Village, Now For Sale [Pictures]
“It wouldn’t go on the front of a chocolate box, but my great grandfather, grandfather and father loved it. We all loved it and it would be very hard to find a village with more loyal and lovely people living in it.”
Eve had a bachelor’s in French from Oxford and worked in Paris and London. She lived in West Heslerton in the 21-bedroom West Heslerton Hall until 30 years ago, when she moved to a four-bedroom house.
“She was a little eccentric, very nice and benevolent lady who did a lot for the community and the tenants,” Watson said.
Whoever takes advantage of this unique sale, the new owners have big shoes to fill. Residents of the English village speak very highly of the Dawnays and are a little worried about who the new owner will be and what they’ll do to their beloved town.
Described as perfectly preserved and quintessential, “time has stood still” in West Heslerton, where people enjoy a “bucolic way of life,” Cundalls said, Eve kept rents quite low and did whatever she could to make the community a wonderful place to live. It boasts a primary school and football, cricket, and bowling teams, all of which are included in the sale.
Cole said residents, some of them farmers, weren’t really told about the sale but expected it and are concerned the new owner will raise rents or change the village.
“I’ve lived in the same house here for 78 years,” resident John Myers, whose lived in the village his entire life, told BBC News. “There’s nothing you can do about it, as long as the owner who buys it are alright with me, I will be alright with them.”
Included in the sale are the Hall, Eve’s second house, 43 houses and cottages, a pub with restaurant, gas station, and a playing field and sports field with pavilion. More than 2,000 acres of rolling English countryside and 112 acres of woodland are also for sale. Cundalls estimates a rental and agricultural income of $544,490.
Watson called the English village a “blank canvas” ready to be shaped, with opportunities to “convert buildings, develop plots and explore commercial opportunities.” But seeing as the new owner must honor current leases, they may want to listen to West Heslerton’s residents and keep the little village just as it is.
“It’s beautiful. There are some things money can’t buy, the views, the people, it’s great. Not much has changed at all,” said resident Frank Bruce. “As long as things continue more or less as it is, but who knows what will happen.”
[Images via Cundalls Facebook]