Lords of the manor want to transform Thirsk into Yorkshire's arts and culture capital with new sculpture park, gallery, campsite and James Herriot-themed events

The lords of the manor of Thirsk have unveiled an ambition to transform the market town most associated with fictional vet James Herriot into Yorkshire's art, literature and music capital.

Thirsk Hall
Thirsk Hall

The Bell family have lodged plans with Hambleton Council to create a sculpture park and gallery featuring works by internationally acclaimed artists in the grounds and buildings of Grade II*-listed Thirsk Hall, their ancestral home for the last 300 years.

The sculpture park, set in the 20-acre site, aims to include further major examples of monumental sculpture by artists of international fame and create a collection available to view by the public, adding to area's tourist attractions.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The first exhibition will focus on sculptures inspired by nature, myth and ancient cultures by Michael Lyons, whose works are also on permanent display in the Henry Moore Institute and in the US.

Alongside this, as part of a scheme to make the hall self-sustaining, the family has applied for consent for change of use of some of the grazing farmland by the hall to allow for camping facilities, including up to ten sleeping pods, temporary showers and toilets, access roads and parking.

Over the coming years the family also hopes to convert the old stables into luxury holiday accommodation, host more outside events at the site, such as pop and classical music concerts, a drive-through cinema, art and antique car boot sales, a James Herriot-related event and a literary festival.

The planning documents state the developments would be for "the benefit of the local community and to sustain the long term heritage of the grounds and buildings".

They state: “Our approach is to build Thirsk Hall as a sustainable centre for the arts. By creating a historical and cultural destination within Thirsk we aim to bring further tourism to Thirsk as well as opportunities for more employment and opportunities for local businesses. Thirsk will be Yorkshire's art, literature and music capital, like Malton is Yorkshire's food capital.

"By allowing respectful interventions within the grounds, in order to generate income, this will then facilitate an ongoing programme of improvement works, bringing the disused buildings back into modern use for future generations to enjoy."

A number of tourism businesses in the area have welcomed the sculpture park proposal. Ian Ashton, managing director of The World of James Herriot, said: "It would complement us and would be a market place that we could tap into just like they could tap into ours. Thirsk Hall is just down the road so it would be ideal."

While the glamping proposal has received support from Thirsk Town Council, numerous residents have lodged objections, citing concerns over developing farmland, noise and light pollution, traffic congestion, road safety and heritage.

One objector wrote: "The proposed development falls within a designated conservation area, which should be there to give the area extra protection from this development. To pass this proposed development on this land would be a travesty."

Thirsk councillor Gareth Dadd said: "My job and first priority is to look out for the needs and concerns of local residents and the proposals for any development have got to be balanced."