IN BRONTË COUN­TRY

Love Wuther­ing Heights? This his­toric farm is for you, says Jonny Beard­sall

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Property -

It would seem an op­por­tune mo­ment to put Manor Farm in the York­shire Dales on the mar­ket. With the cast of ITV’s adap­ta­tion of Emily Brontë’s Wuther­ing Heights pos­tur­ing around the croft be­hind, the new own­ers will en­joy a glimpse of their new home on tele­vi­sion when the two-part drama ap­pears on our screens in the new year. Tom Hardy, who has ap­peared in nu­mer­ous pe­riod dra­mas, plays Heath­cliff along­side new­comer Char­lotte Ri­ley as Cathy.

But the drama apart, ties to the soil run deep, so sell­ing a manor house with a work­ing farm that has been in the same fam­ily for more than 400 years could have an­ces­tors turn­ing in their graves. “It’s sad but has to be the way for­ward,” says the ven­dor, Bobby Bell, 57, a di­rect de­scen­dant of Christo­pher Daw­son, who built the farm’s Grade II house in 1641.

A year af­ter Daw­son – a mod­est yeo­man squire – fin­ished his hand­some fivebed­room home, his up­wardly mo­bile son, Josias, mar­ried a lady of for­tune, and the neigh­bour­ing Lang­cliffe Hall es­tate came his way.

Bell, whose mother was a Daw­son was work­ing in the City when he un­ex­pected in­her­ited the es­tate in 1975 when his un­cle died, aged 55. “It was a com­plete sur­prise,” says Bell. “We al­ways thought Un­cle Michael would get mar­ried, so mov­ing up here had not been on the cards. “Since then I’ve lived at Lang­cliffe Hall, the es­tate’s main house nine miles away in Set­tle, and my wife Betsy and I are very happy here.”

The manor house, which is for sale for £495,000 through Knight Frank (01423 530088), is in the hamlet of Hal­ton Gill, where the road ends and be­comes an an­cient pack­horse track across the moors.

Al­though miles dis­tant from tra­di­tional “Brontë Coun­try” around Ha­worth in West York­shire, its set­ting clearly sat­is­fied the tele­vi­sion lo­ca­tion scouts. With a back­drop of 208 acres of hill land, from which you can see the peaks of In­gle­bor­ough, Pen-y-Ghent and Wh­ern­side, in sum­mer it over­looks a sea of blue and white flower mead­ows spread over 146 acres on both banks of the River Skir­fare, a stream alive with wily brown trout.

In need of some work, the house, which has mostly been ten­anted, is now

TV link: Manor Farm in Hal­ton Gill, above cen­tre; the 1993 oil paint­ing

be­low

empty. Past in­hab­i­tants have learned to live with damp and open fires; ground floors are flagged, rooms are set with stone mul­lioned win­dows and, al­though it has cen­tral heat­ing, an in­glenook fire­place in the din­ing hall is large enough to burn a ton of wood a day, which must be test­ing in this dale where trees are sparse.

“It re­ally needs a fam­ily to take it on and love it again,” says Bell. “You could spend £250,000 ren­o­vat­ing it or a great deal more, but it will make a won­der­ful home.”

So what does he think will hap­pen to the land, which is be­ing of­fered sep­a­rately for £985,000 or to­gether with the house for £1.5mil­lion? “Whether the buyer will want to farm it them­selves is an­other mat­ter. but it will be easy enough to live in the house and con­tinue let­ting the farm.”

The farm has both mod­ern and tra­di­tional build­ings. One was clearly a show­piece when it was built in 1829 with an arched en­trance topped with stone balls. Closer to the fivebed­room house, a rec­tan­gu­lar sta­ble and coach house built in 1652 has a small room with a fire­place. This has con­sent for con­ver­sion into hol­i­day ac­com­mo­da­tion.

But given the fam­ily ties and the po­ten­tial to turn the manor into an up-mar­ket bed and break­fast, could they not ren­o­vate it them­selves and let it? “We thought about it but it doesn’t stack up,” in­sists Bell. “If we knew that we’d be liv­ing in it one day in our re­tire­ment, then it would dif­fer­ent, but we won’t be grow­ing old there.”

With its at­mo­spheric char­ac­ter and iso­lated set­ting, lit­er­ary fans should ap­ply.

Char­lotte Ri­ley and Tom Hardy in Wuther­ing Heights

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