Abandoned English manors raise questions. How does a beautiful estate owned by the same family for generations become deserted and neglected? Ravenswick Hall is no exception. Once a proud English manor in North Yorkshire, it remained in the same family for generations. The estate was eventually sold out of the family, partially remodeled, then abandoned, and later repossessed by the bank. Recently it was re-sold, and is now waiting to be demolished in late 2016 to make way for new construction.

A bankruptcy, a failed bid to make Historic England’s preservation list, and systematic vandalism headline the twentieth-century drama surrounding the 276 year-old estate. The new owner hopes to change that next year with a new Ravenswick Hall.

So what’s the story behind these abandoned buildings and why are they being torn down? Read on.

cover photo courtesy Guy Carpenter of Gullwing Photography

Ravenswick-Hall-mapMap It!

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Holt era

Ravenswick Hall 2016
courtesy Guy Carpenter

Ravenswick Hall is nestled in the mature wooded landscape just outside the town of Kirkbymoorside, and borders the southern perimeter of the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors National Park.

The homestead itself dates to 1740, when the original farmhouse was part of the Duncombe Park Estate. In 1895 industrialist Harrison Holt purchased the estate. Holt built his fortune establishing the original British Oil and Cake Mills Company at Selby, a form of which still exists today under BOCM Pauls.

Mr. Holt wished to transform the Duncombe Park Estate and enlisted the help of Gothic Revivalist architect Temple Moore. In 1910 the homestead was extended, its hunting lodge was transformed, and Ravenswick Hall was born. The name “Ravenswick” is believed to reference to the black flags of the Norse invaders who camped at the site in the ninth century.

Harrison’s son Vernon Holt inherited Ravenswick Hall in 1931. Like his father, he made additional modifications to the home. Eventually Vernon’s son (and Harrison’s grandson) James Holt inherited the estate, and the alterations continued. In all, the estate was modified at least three times during the family’s one hundred and eleven years of ownership.

In 2006 James and Mary Holt sold Ravenswick Hall after deciding the family no longer needed such a large property. The couple relinquished the main house, its outbuildings, and 80 acres to move into a smaller farmhouse on the estate.

James Holt continued to run the estate’s 2,500 acre farm, which he had managed since the 1960s (the company, “Ravenswick Limited”, was later dissolved in 2011).

Ravenswick Hall 2011
Ravenswick Hall primary residence, circa 2011 (source)

The family liquidated some of the estate’s antique furniture, including a mahogany bookcase, a triple pedestal dining table, a collection of white Delft pottery, and a dozen highly ornate mirrors.

Also sold was a nineteenth-century chandelier with an interesting history: Originally hung in Guildhall, Hull, it was smuggled out during a Luftwaffe raid in May of 1941 and re-assembled at Ravenswick Hall.

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Turbulence after Holt

Kevin Linfoot Ravenswick Hall
Kevin Linfoot

Ravenswick’s new owner was Kevin Linfoot, a developer from York who was at one time “Yorkshire’s 20th richest man.” He began an extensive remodeling project in 2007 that stalled under a financial hardship and was never completed. This included the construction of a new principal staircase (which remains unfinished today), the removal of several interior walls, stripping of original finishes, and extensive loss of original plaster work and joinery.

There were also plans for a helicopter pad and an enormous tree house. But when Linfoot failed to pay obligations, the contractors removed items such as banisters, doors, fixtures, and windows in lieu of payment.

Linfoot was chairman of a Leeds-based residential property developer KW Linfoot Plc, until the company went into voluntary liquidation in February 2009. Among his listed assets in March 2010 were the £4 million Ravenswick Hall and its accompanying 198 acres near Kirkbymoorside – however it was noted the estate had been “extensively and systematically vandalised” and had an estimated cost to repair approaching £1 million.

Creditors Bank of Scotland and NatWest repossessed Ravenswick Hall in 2010.

photos from 2011 listing show a partially remodeled Ravenswick Hall

For the next five years Ravenswick remained in a partially disassembled purgatory. Under bank ownership it re-appeared on the market in 2012, only this time it was marketed as being “derelict and uninhabitable.” By this time, the estate was effectively a shell. Another description was equally succinct: “Kirkbymoorside, Yorkshire £1.5m. Ravenswick, a six-bedroom house with a four-bedroom lodge and 93 acres of land. Structural renovations need to be completed, at an estimated cost of £1m.

In April of 2012 the estate reportedly received an offer of £4,678,000 for Ravenswick Hall, however an impasse developed over Linfoot’s legal troubles with the bank. He was accused of “not co-operating with the sale of Ravenswick Hall,” and the sale collapsed.

Ravenswick Hall 2012
Ravenswick Hall in 2012 (courtesy Judderman)

In October of 2012 the estate was again offered for sale. The descriptions were getting progressively dour: “Ravenswick is derelict and is currently uninhabitable and in need of complete repair and renovation…. Warning! Ravenswick, The Lodge and the Outbuildings are in a dangerous and very poor state of repair. Great caution should be exercised when inspecting the property. Neither the Vendor, nor their Agent will accept any responsibility for any accidents or Injury that might occur when inspecting the property.

From 2010 through 2012 the estate would disappear and re-appear on the market. Almost in concert with the increasing vandalism, the asking price dropped. In February of 2013 Linfoot’s companion, Victoria Greetham, submitted an offer of £1.58m for Ravenswick Hall. The amount was considerably less than the £4.68 million offer allegedly received the year before, and it does not appear the Greetham offer was accepted.

Google Streetviews of Ravenswick Hall, 2011

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Demolition & a new Ravenswick Hall

By the summer of 2015 the estate had been sold to a private bidder; few details were revealed of the sale. Ravenswick Hall’s new owners, who wished to remain anonymous, had grand plans for rebuilding the once-proud estate. To their credit the new owners were concerned with the town’s reception to such plans, and wished to gather feedback before breaking ground.

In July of 2015 the architects held a public exhibition to display some of the new owner’s proposals to the town residents. Reader comments to the announcement were less than flattering, but according to the architects the exhibition was a “huge success” that showed support from 94% of the residents who offered feedback.

In October of 2015 the Ryedale District Council had received and approved the formal application to demolish Ravenswick Hall “together with adjacent lodge and majority of associated outbuildings.” In its place the application stated the new owners wished to build a 10-bedroom country house in the classic design “and associated buildings including leisure building, service building, detached quadruple garage, gatehouse, and pool house,” among others.

Ravenswick Hall artist rendition
Artist rendition of new Ravenswick Hall (source)

By February of 2016 announcements were made of the first major new country house to be built in Yorkshire for 200 years. After the old estate is demolished, the new owner plans to include landscaped gardens with a temple and grotto, belvederes, and two linked pools – in addition to several staff dwellings with attached garages.

According to the architects, the new estate will be a family home and will retain the Ravenswick Hall name. Construction is expected to begin later in 2016.

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The Estate

Ravenswick Hall grand staircase
Partially finished staircase at Ravenswick Hall (courtesy Guy Carpenter).

During its prime Ravenswick Hall was one of North Yorkshire’s finer homes. The main home was impressive for its time, with three reception areas, a billiard room, library, and offices. Between the lodging structures it has thirteen bedrooms, five bathrooms, and three cellars.

The estate included an extensive range of stabling, domestic outhouses and outbuildings, a squash court, swimming pool, tennis court, and in addition to the farmland, nearly 200 acres of park and woodlands.

In 2013 Ravenswick Hall was submitted to Historic England for consideration under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act of 1990, due to its potential architectural and historic interest. The organization decided the home did not meet the criteria for listing. Among the reasons were “extensive and significant alterations” and “extensive stripping of internal finishes and joinery, with much of what remains being vandalized.” The report also revealed the original principal building no longer survivesin any recognizable form” today.

As an abandoned estate, Ravenswick lacks the panache of England’s best. English country homes such as Witley Court offer more visual excitement (not to mention are legal to visit – Ravenswick is private property). Here walls are missing, finishes have been stripped, and fixtures are absent. The house was not remodeled as much as it was decorticated of its ornamental accouterments.

Ravenswick Hall 2016
Arched entryway at Ravenswick Hall, circa 2016 (courtesy Guy Carpenter)

A stroll through the once-proud home reveals a shell that still appears modestly regal, even today. Inside its décor has been stripped, from the wall ornamentation to the tile work around the fireplaces. There are wooden frames, remodeling dust, and extra lumber lying about. A breeze flaps torn fabric from a roof remodel that was never finished. Mesh netting was installed and readied for plaster, but never used.

Vegetation grows up through the floor and out the window frames. In other rooms vines have intruded through open windows and slowly enveloped the built-in cabinets. No furniture remains, although the porcelain fixtures that were left behind are broken.

Ironically the only building to retain most of its glass is the greenhouse, which has only lost panels as the foliage inside breaks out. The pool is completely covered by debris, and today is completely hidden from view. The outbuildings are each in various states of disrepair: holes in roof, soft floors, and because most of the doors and windows are missing, there is moisture everywhere. Moss covers the floor of one room like a carpet.

(click thumbnails to enlarge)

photos courtesy Guy Carpenter

Naked framed walls stand erect and ceilings are half-covered in drywall. Construction debris abounds; if not for the graffiti, you’d think the remodel was recent and still in progress.

Aside from the principal home, there is little of architectural significance. Ravenswick Hall may not have the age or originality to qualify for English Heritage, and Harrison Holt wasn’t a Rockefeller, but that doesn’t mean the story isn’t interesting.

And it’s not over, the next chapter starts later this year. For now we enjoy one last look at Holt’s Ravenswick Hall before it is gone forever.

photos courtesy Guy Carpenter

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[ Learn more about Ravenswick Hall structures, view the site plan, or check out the estate’s Energy Performance Certificate. ]

Ravenswick Hall site map
(source)

 

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26 COMMENTS

  1. Some confusion on the sale. First it was listed by the bank for 1.5m, then they got a 4.68m offer? Even for short sales that is quite a whopper of an offer. Then “from 2012 until 2012” (wait, what?), they dropped the price from 2.5m to 1.5m. Although apparently that was already the price previously. Then in 2013 Linfoot’s companion makes an offer – I would like to know more about that….did Linfoot want it back? Then the next section states it was sold anonymously in 2015. But wait, what about the 2013 offer above ask? Just nitpicking, that section does not make much sense to me, this is still the best place on the net!

    • You have an eagle eye my friend, good catch. The 2012 was a typo, should have read 2010 through 2012 – thanks! As far as the prices, you are correct, there seems to be a conflict of information. I could not find an explanation for it as the figures were pulled directly from the cited articles. I did notice that Linfoot had the estate listed at a value of £4 million in 2010. This might have been optimistic even before the vandalism, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2012 offer for £4.7 million was not a genuine offer. The only reports of the offer seem to originate from Linfoot’s group, and they came at a convenient time when he was attempting to value assets for creditors. The article that mentions Victoria Greetham’s offer did say “Bust Yorkshire property tycoon Kevin Linfoot is creeping back into his former country estate by the back door” but it made no other mention of arrangement or intent so I did not want to speculate. I do not believe the 2015 buyer was Greetham since her offer was in 2013 and not private. I could find no other mention of that offer so I believe it was not accepted. Thanks for pointing out the unclear bits and typos, I had to go through and clean it up a bit in an attempt to make it easier to understand. Cheers Raving Lunatic. 🙂

      • Hello SI, after your comment above I could no longer resist the urge to make a post. The articles on your website are so very interesting. I’ve been browsing them for maybe two weeks now – often as a break during work. The articles are well documented, and your writing is so clear, literary and delicate. What’s more, I was astonished by your reply to raving lunatic; not only do you provide the public with free articles, you also hold yourself accountable for what you have published. The fact that you respond in such a friendly manner, and with disclosing your considerations and motivations – which underline the huge efforts you have made – really makes you a remarkable webpage publisher. My sincere compliments to you.

        • Why thank you sir! This is such a wonderful compliment, cheers Frank. First off, thanks for reading the articles. I’m pleased to hear that I was able to draw your attention and keep it for more than one post. 🙂

          I appreciate the kind words on the writing as well, that is very kind of you to say. Thanks! Comments like Raving Lunatic’s are extra-helpful because I don’t have a second pair of eyes proofreading the content. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am when people point out mistakes, I think it would be more embarrassing for an error to stay published. And comments like yours help drive me to keep posting, so thanks again for taking the time to submit such a fantastic comment Frank. I am really touched, thank you!

        • My apologies if my comments sounded harsh, they were not intended to be. My comments were made with the highest intentions in mind, again, I think this is the best place on the web! Thanks again SI.

          • I didn’t interpret your comments that way at all my friend, your tone and words were fine! I am genuinely appreciative when confusing stuff is brought to my attention, honestly. Please do keep pointing that stuff out. For me it’s more embarrassing to have it stay on the page than to be corrected! 😉

  2. The stonework and the lighting along the stairs was so beautiful. Something heartbreaking about it. The one wood panel with the tree carving is absolutely beautiful.

    • Great to hear from you Noelle. I think the tree might be a later contribution from an unauthorized visitor, but I agree it is well done. You can definitely see the craftsmanship behind some of what remains. 🙂

  3. Thanks for that …. most interesting …. next to the recent explanation for the Peruvian Nasca well structures, this is the most interesting piece I have read today. Good work.

    • Thanks for reading flohri, appreciate the kind words as well. I was not familiar with that one, had to look that up. An ancient irrigation system? I’m intrigued – thanks for the tip! 🙂

  4. Mr Linfoot is akin to a crook and has destructed a wonderful building with a great history. He should be forced to live in the crumbling wreck to understand what he has done, wither that or a jail cell. The same man is also causing further chaos in Kirkbymoorside as he now has an interest in (or he owns) what was the council depot in manor vale. This too is going to ruin, marred by HERAS fencing and ruining another delightful area of the town. He should be forced to donate this land to the townspeople of KMS such that a community building and new scout hut can be developed. Go away Mr Linfoot – go and ruin another part of the country and leave Kirkbymoorside alone.

  5. My first impression from the cover photo is how much the place resembles an American McMansion. Though there isn’t much true architectural “style” to those behemoths of suburbia, I wonder if they dimly strive towards English manor-ism (pun intended, sorry). It’s a plausible theory, at any rate, since folks who have more money than taste tend to equate Englishness with classiness.

    • “Manorism” – I laughed. 😉 And you’re correct, it isn’t unlike those types of houses you referenced. That’s what I like about this one though, it had class and was a proper country home without being over-the-top spectacular. There was a bit of restraint. And I agree with your last sentence too…

  6. IF YOU DO NOT KNOW THE FACTS BUT ARE OR HAVE BENEFITTED FROM THE LARGESSE that meant the House was sold you should be grateful!!

    • You are correct, we are missing some information in the story. Unfortunately we’re limited to what has been released in the press. I’d love to fill in some of the blanks, if you know more about the situation please feel free to share additional information with us. Thanks for the comment!

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