Fears Yorkshire convent's sale of listed retreat near Whitby could see site become 'holiday resort'
The Sisters of the Holy Paraclete announced five years ago that they had put a significant part of their estate in the Esk Valley on the market, including Grade II-listed Sneaton Castle, which they had formerly run as a girls’ boarding school, and St Hilda’s Priory, the nuns’ living quarters. The castle subsequently became a wedding venue and the sisters moved to a modern nunnery nearby.
However, they are now disposing of St Oswald’s House, which was converted in 1960 from a Georgian coach-house and stables by the former landowner and has been run as a Christian retreat centre.
The complex, valued at £1.15million, is within the North York Moors National Park and includes a chapel, three Grade II-listed cottages, two self-catering properties, outbuildings, gardens and grounds in a 15-acre plot. Overall there are 26 bedrooms.
A community interest company currently operates the pastoral centre and guesthouse, but the Order remain the custodians of the building. Agents Boulton Cooper of Malton describe St Oswald’s House as having potential for ‘alternative uses’.
The land near Sleights was once part of the Woodlands estate, owned by the Yeoman family until they sold it off in lots in 1939 and 1958. Lady Armatrude de Grimston purchased the coach-house and poultry house in the latter auction, and built St Oswald’s. After she died in 1982, she bequeathed the property to her neighbours, the convent.
Among those who have sounded a warning about the site’s future is former vicar and Yorkshire Post columnist G P Taylor, who told the Daily Mail he had considered taking it over himself to retain as a retreat facility.
He said he feared it could become a ‘large holiday complex’ despite a local need for more affordable housing, and suggested the properties would be better used if they were rented out to workers on long-term tenancies.
The Order’s numbers are believed to have dwindled to around 20-25 sisters, many of them elderly, in recent years.