Never has the term “rare opportunity” been so apt as the Elizabethan house has been owned by the same family for more than 425 years.
Other lures include its private position in the sought-after village of Rawdon, in easy reach of central Leeds, Bradford and Harrogate; its 3.86 acres of land and its remarkable period features.
The Grade II star-listed manor house, built when Elizabeth I was on the throne, is on the market with Dacre, Son & Hartley after Nick Snowden, the latest owner, made the momentous decision to wave goodbye to the property which he inherited when he was just three years old.
His paternal grandmother bequeathed it to him, leapfrogging his father, who moved into the hall in the 1990s after selling his business in Scotland.
Nick’s father was only the third family member to call the hall his home. The first was George Rawdon who had the property built in the late 1500s, the second was his son Francis who completed the project in 1625.
For the rest of its long life, the house was tenanted and Nick, a surveyor, says: “I think that’s why I have no sentimental attachment to it, though selling it has been an incredibly difficult decision.
“But, I was brought up by my mother and have no connection with the area and I live in Wiltshire very happily with my wife and children.
“I don’t want to move to the hall and I don’t want the responsibility of maintaining and letting it, so selling it and allowing someone who loves it to have it seems the right thing to do.”
Apart from a few smaller pieces, he is also selling the contents, including period furniture and oil paintings, which are now with Dreweatts for auction, also for good reason as Nick lives in a cul-de-sac in a 1980s house.
While the past riches and titles gained by his ancestors, the early Baronets, Earls of Moira, Loudon and the Marquesses of Hastings, have been lost to his bloodline, Rawdon Hall remained a family asset and the property’s past is well documented.
The land it sits in was granted to Paulyn de Rawdon by William the Conqueror in 1069 as a reward for his body of archers’ service in the Battle of Hastings.
“My distant ancestor George Rawdon built the house as a centre of dissenting worship, incorporating priest holes to protect non-conformists and a look-out window,” says Nick.
“Religious services were held under Buckstone Rock on what is now the adjoining golf course by the leading dissenting minister of the time, Reverend Heywood.
“It was said that white sheets were hung out, as though to dry, as a sign for a meeting.”
It was George’s grandson, Sir George Rawdon, a successful military commander and 1st Baronet of Moira, County Down, who first let the house, a trend that continued for the next 300 plus years.
Tenants included one who overwintered livestock in the house, using the dining room as animal pens. The hall was also visited by Charlotte Brontë in 1841, when she worked as a governess in nearby Upperwood House.
In 1870, the family sold a 99-year lease of Rawdon Hall to the Briggs family who let it to multiple tenants until 1928 when Nick’s great, great grandmother - Baroness Donnington - bought the lease back.
By then, the family fortune had dwindled due to death, divorce and debt. The latter due in part to Lord Harry Hastings, who had squandered a fortune on high living and betting, which eventually led to the sale of the family mansion Donnington Park in the 1920s.
During the Second World War, Rawdon Hall was requisitioned by the army and was camouflaged with blacked out windows and black cinders.
However, perhaps the most significant tenant was Judge Nevin. He and his family leased the hall from 1948 to 1974 and undertook a splendid restoration with just one small slip-up.
Judge Nevin included his family crest in the stained glass windows which he had installed. It reads “opere non forte”, which he believed to mean “By hard work, not chance” but was later found to mean “It may not work”.
That is now apt as the house does not work for Nick and his family and so the time has come to let it go.
A new dawn beckons for Rawdon Hall, which has grounds, a waterfall and pond, former lawn tennis court, woodland and a pair of paddocks.
The 6,400 sq.ft house has a galleried hall/family room, morning room, living room, dining room, study, dining kitchen with pantry and utility and a breakfast room. On the first floor are five double bedrooms, house bathroom and a shower room and W.C.
The second floor has two former double bedrooms. There is also a coach house and 3.86 acres.
Period features abound and include a stone frieze said to be from nearby Kirkstall Abbey, oak panelling, fireplaces, a galleried staircase and priest hole.
Nick hopes that Rawdon Hall will be loved and cherished by its new owner and as a farewell gift, he is playing his part in recording its history.
The house has sparked the idea for a factual book about the effect of inheritance within his family down the ages and he says: “Rawdon Hall will be a side show in it. It’s my vanity project and, I suppose, a form of therapy.”
Rawdon Hall is on the market at 1.25m with Dacre, Son & Hartley.