An entire English village is for sale for $28 million, and yes, the sale does include the people living in West Heslerton in North Yorkshire. In addition to its residents, the sale includes a pub, garage, playing fields, sports pavilion, a 21-bedroom historic hall, 43 houses, and apparently also a church.
Selling an entire English village where no one lives would be one thing, but a village with people living in it is quite another. “Obviously for the tenants, some of whom are farmers, the sale is of considerable concern. They have been under the same patronage for so many years that they will be wondering what changes will be made by the new owners,” writes The Guardian on April 4.
“There has not been any consultation with the residents about the sale as far as I am aware. However, it hasn’t come as a surprise – it is something which has been expected, but there is concern about the rents and plans of the new owners. We would of course like it to remain as it is,” said one resident.”
Quite understandably, the about 375 residents of West Heslerton are concerned about the $28 million sale of everything that has been their community for the past few decades. To make matters worse, the real estate agents behind the sale are advertising it “as a money-making opportunity.”
The previous owner of the 2,000-acre North Yorkshire village was Eve Dawnay. Eve used to love building miniature models as a child and so her father gave her the real-life village as a present. The village and the land had been owned by the Dawnay family for more than 150 years, and under Eve’s ownership, not much changed. For the people living there, even the rents remained quite low.
According to Bernard Cole, chairman of Heslerton parish council, “The Dawnay family have always been very philanthropic and Eve Dawnay was particularly kind.”
After Eve’s death in 2010 at the age of 84 and with no heir to inherit the village, the numerous extended family beneficiaries decided to end a little girl’s dream and to sell West Heslerton. The centerpiece of the estate is the 21-bedroom West Heslerton Hall which has been left empty for 30 years.
Eve Dawnay’s younger sister who lived at West Heslerton Hall until she was 18 said that even though the village was loved by generations in her family, the family decided to sell the entire village because times are changing:
“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. There is a real sense of community, which is hard to find these days. There are generations of families who have lived in the estate houses. In fact, there was a time when nobody ever seemed to move away.”
“I can’t say strongly enough 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.”
Tom Watson, the listing agent for the sale of the English village, stated that the village “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.”