Big-hearted Leeds tycoon’s own ‘Neverland’ up for sale

Flint Mill:  The bridge that reminded Jimi Heselden of his childhood in Leeds
Flint Mill: The bridge that reminded Jimi Heselden of his childhood in Leeds
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Big-hearted tycoon Jimi Heselden spent a small fortune creating his very own “Neverland” at Flint Mill, near Wetherby.

The much-loved entrepreneur, who died four years ago, lavished £11million on the 67 acre property, which is now for sale with Beadnall Copley estate agents for just £3.95m.

It boasts a gargantuan 13,000sq ft vintage car museum, a life-size statue of Napoleon on top of a Nelson’s-style column, a mini Stonehenge and a ride-on railway running through stately home-style parkland.

The wildly extravagant spend may look like a poor investment but for Jimi it was worth every hard-earned penny. His family this week revealed that he created his dream home with the intention of sharing it. His aim was to invite groups of disabled and under-privileged children to enjoy his idyllic, riverside estate.

His nephew Nicky, who worked with him on the project, said: “That was what it was all about. The train track, the museum, the miniature donkeys. He wanted the children to be able to come down and enjoy a day out in a great big playground. That’s what he was like, unbelievably generous.”

The property also allowed him to dream up ideas and put them into practice. His fortune was built on bright ideas. He grew up on a Leeds council estate and became a miner. He used his redundancy cash to set up a sandblasting firm and went on to make millions from creating the Concertainer “blast wall” basket, used to build defences around military encampments.

He later bought the European licence for Segway and was out on his own high-tech scooter when he died in 2010 aged 62. He had pulled over to allow a dog walker to pass when he fell 42ft from a footpath.

“He had more or less retired from the business, so every day there was another great plan, like ‘let’s make a lake’. He loved being busy and he enjoyed working outside with the lads. They’d clock off at 1pm on a Saturday and he’d carry on. He never stopped,” says Nicky.

His three bedroom converted water mill was treated to a new £100,000 staircase and a swimming pool.

The museum housed some of the world’s most sought-after vehicles, including a 1927 Rolls Royce Phantom that belonged to Hollywood actress Bette Davies. The cars were sold after his death.

It also features a mural of Halton Moor council estate where Jimi grew up. He never forgot his roots or how it felt to have no money. Tales of his generosity are legendary and he donated millions to charity.

Leeds, Sweet street, 28th March 1979'LIGHTING'Mr. Eddie Mullan, a lift engineer at the City of Leeds Public Works Department, Sweet Street, gives a last polish to one of the four old gas lamps that are to be sent to Germany.

Leeds nostalgia: Bits of old Leeds sent to Germany... in 1979