Pe­riod drama re­vives in­ter­est in liv­ing on an ances­tral es­tate

Ten­ants are step­ping back in time as the Down­ton ef­fect cre­ates an in­ter­est in rent­ing his­toric es­tate homes. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

FANS of Down­ton Abbey are count­ing the days un­til the sec­ond se­ries hits the TV screens

The first episode starts on Septem­ber 18 and although it be­gins in the midst of the First World War, much of the story is played out against the back­drop of Ed­war­dian glam­our and ar­chi­tec­tural splen­dour.

Like Brideshead be­fore it, the im­pres­sive house, played by High­clere Cas­tle in Berk­shire, is the star and it has cre­ated what one let­ting agent refers to as the “Down­ton Abbey ef­fect”

It has prompted an up­surge of in­ter­est in rent­ing grand piles and other prop­er­ties at­tached to ances­tral es­tates.

“The York­shire rental mar­ket has def­i­nitely been buoyed by the Down­ton Abbey ef­fect,” says Lin­ley & Simp­son di­rec­tor Will Lin­ley.

“The resur­gence of pe­riod dra­mas such as this and Up­stairs, Down­stairs has sparked an up­surge of in­ter­est in prop­er­ties from a by­gone age.

“Many of these houses have been mod­ernised and taste­fully ren­o­vated and, as a re­sult, there is no short­age of ten­ants want­ing to step back in time and fol­low in the his­tor­i­cal foot­steps of the peo­ple who lived in the prop­er­ties hun­dreds of years ago.”

Lin­ley & Simp­son has rental prop­er­ties on eight es­tates. These in­clude Mark­ing­ton Hall, be­tween Ripon and Har­ro­gate, owned by de­scen­dents of an­ti­slave trade cam­paigner Wil­liam Wil­ber­force, and Farn­ley Hall, a Grade 1 listed manor house near Ot­ley, which was owned by MP Walker Fawkes – a rel­a­tive of Guy Fawkes – in the 1800s. They also let Aller­ton Cas­tle, a Grade 1 listed Gothic house near Har­ro­gate, that fea­tured in the 1993 film The Se­cret Gar­den.

Such is the in­ter­est the above are now let, although Lin­ley and Simp­son has a two bed­room apart­ment at Esh­ton Hall, in the York­shire Dales near Gar­grave, for £1,750pcm. This stately home was de­signed in neoJa­cobean style in the 1820s and is the for­mer seat of Sir Matthew Wil­son MP.

The com­pany also has a four bed­room apart­ment at Stee­ton Hall, near South Mil­ford. The let, which is £1,750 pcm, is in a strik­ing and well-pre­served 14th Cen­tury mano­rial gate­way classed as an an­cient mon­u­ment and pro­tected by English Her­itage.

While the rents are at the top end of the scale, this is the cheap­est way of liv­ing the life of a Lord or Lady. In many cases buy­ing is not an op­tion.

Hare­wood, near Leeds, rarely sells any of its prop­erty port­fo­lio, which is very pop­u­lar with those look­ing to rent.

The es­tate’s prox­im­ity to Leeds and its stun­ning set­ting are ad­van­tages but so is the ku­dos of be­ing part of an es­tate with an im­pres­sive aris­to­cratic his­tory.

Land man­ager Christopher Usher says: “Peo­ple buy into be­ing part of the es­tate. They like to be part of it. I’m not sure about the Down­ton Abbey ef­fect. It’s dif­fi­cult to tell be­cause there is al­ways big de­mand for our prop­er­ties.”

Cas­tle Howard too is never short of ten­ants for its col­lec­tion of cot­tages and coun­try homes and so the Down­ton Abbey ef­fect on let­tings is dif­fi­cult to quan­tify.

What is clear is that TV has had a pro­found in­flu­ence on vis­i­tors to the main house, a grand Baroque man­sion that is feast for the eyes both in­side and out.

Vis­i­tor Ser­vices Man­ager Han­nah Jones says: “Vis­i­tor num­bers are up six per cent this year though whether that is Down­ton Abbey or the fact we have had some great events I am not sure, but I do think that pro­grammes like that cre­ate an in­ter­est.”

Cas­tle Howard still ben­e­fits from ap­pear­ing as Brideshead in the TV se­ries Brideshead Re­vis­ited in 1981.

“We still get an in­flux of Brideshead vis­i­tors ev­ery year even though the se­ries was 30 years ago,” says Han­nah.

“I think there are re-runs of it abroad. We still have peo­ple sign­ing the vis­i­tors book: ‘fi­nally I came to Brideshead’”

After the first se­ries of Down­ton Abbey, the Duke of Devon­shire, whose family seat is Chatsworth in Der­byshire, said: “There has al­ways been a lot of in­ter­est in his­toric houses – you look at the huge suc­cess of the Na­tional Trust – but Down­ton Abbey is an­other rea­son for peo­ple to say, ‘Oh, in­stead of go­ing shop­ping on Satur­day, let’s go to Chatsworth’”.

But ar­dent fans may do well to rein in their pas­sion for pop­u­lar pe­riod dra­mas, as re­search shows that some tele­vi­sion view­ers feel gen­uine dis­tress when their favourite se­ries comes to an end.

Those who watch TV for com­pan­ion­ship or feel par­tic­u­larly close to a char­ac­ter are the ones most likely to be up­set.

LEAD­ING THE WAY: The TV se­ries

has caused an in­ter­est among ten­ants in grand his­toric homes.

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