The term “rare opportunity” is a good example of hyperbole in the estate agency business, where it is overused and rarely relevant. It features in the sales brochure for Tickhill Castle, preceded by the word “extremely”, and for once it is more than justified.
Tucked away on the fringe of the sought-after market town of Tickhill, near Doncaster, the property includes the Old Hall, a large Grade II* listed 17th century manor house that comes with six acres and its own scheduled ancient monument. The latter has the impressive remains of one of England’s oldest Norman motte and bailey castles, built shortly after William the Conqueror invaded.
Although open to the sky, the castle’s gatehouse, dating to around 1070, still stands, along with much of its curtain wall, a hooded fireplace built in 1325 and an Elizabethan mullioned window. The motte, a huge 80ft mound surrounded by a moat with a spiral path leading to the top, is the highest early Norman motte in England of one build and the site also includes the remains of the original shell keep, the ruins of a tower built by Henry II and a 17th century ice house.
The property, now on the market for £2.5m, belongs to Barry and Deborah Moss, who bought it on leasehold from the Duchy of Lancaster in 1988. It was a match made in heaven as far as preserving our built heritage is concerned. Barry is a chartered building engineer and surveyor with an interest in history. He is also very handy and a stickler for detail.
“We were looking for a large house to renovate and live in and this came up. We came to see it and that was it,” he says. After collecting the keys, a 30 year-long labour of love to restore the property followed.
The 10,265ft Old Hall has its roots in the 14th century and was modernised in 1585 in the Elizabethan style by Ralph Hansby, a Londoner, who added a new wing. In the 18th and 19th century, it was updated in the Georgian style by the Earls of Scarbrough. By the time the Moss family took it on, the hall had been empty for 10 years and was in a parlous state, as vandals and thieves had smashed windows and damaged stonework, among other things.
“The repairs required by the Duchy were minimal but we have done a full restoration, including replacing the roof. It took over my life and we spent hundreds of thousands on it not counting my time,” says Barry, who project managed while also being hands on with the work.
The first job after making the building watertight was to turn the top floor of the hall into a large apartment for the couple and their two sons, so they could be comfortable while the rest of the work continued. They then revived the west wing and moved into that before restoring the ground floor of the property.
The specialist skills needed for the project meant that they couldn’t use a regular builder. Instead, Barry used specialist tradespeople and, after meticulous research, he oversaw and advised them on what was required.
Reviving the Great Hall was a huge task and Barry says: “Part of it had been divided with a brick wall and the ceiling had been underdrawn. We took them down and found the original entrance to the parlour. It was a big job with six men required to put a supporting beam up there.” Among the many historic items Barry found on site was an Elizabethan door inscribed with “Peace and grace be in this place”. It is now set within a 14 century arched stone doorway that was discovered in pieces in the grounds.
“We did the apartment first, then we did the west wing and moved into that before restoring the ground floor level,” says Barry. The Old Hall now has a reception hall, cloakroom, drawing room, morning room, library, the great hall with gallery used for dining, the terrace room, guest WC’s, a fitted kitchen, utility room, second cloakroom and study On the first floor is the principal bedroom with sitting room and ensuite, four additional ensuite bedrooms and a sitting room. On the second /top floor are three reception rooms, five bedrooms, three bathrooms and two kitchenettes. Outside is a double garage with storage, plentiful parking, along with glorious gardens and grounds.
Estate agent Simon Wright of Carter Jonas, which is marketing the property along with Robinson Hornsby, says: “The sale of Tickhill Castle offers an extremely rare opportunity to acquire an historic scheduled Ancient Monument steeped in a fascinating history.”
Barry, who believes the property would also work well as a boutique hotel and/or wedding venue, has researched and chronicled the history of the Old Hall and its castle and has shared this very special place with the Tickhill community by holding regular open days.
Leaving will be hard after putting heart and soul into the property but it is time to go now that Barry and Deborah’s sons have flown the nest.
Thanks to them the hall and the land are back to their best. “Bringing the hall back to life has been a personal achievement, something one leaves behind that is of value to the nation,” says Barry, who is writing a book on Tickhill Castle to ensure its history and his family’s part in it will be a matter of record.
Tickhill Castle is on the market for £2.5m. For details contact Carter Jonas, tel:01423 523423, www.carterjonas.co.uk or Robinson Hornsby, tel: 01302 751616, www.robinsonhornsby.co.uk.
*Tickhill Castle occupies a prominent yet secluded setting on the southern fringe of Tickhill, eight miles from Doncaster on the Nottinghamshire border.The attractive town is very much sought-after with plenty of independent shops, restaurants, cafes and bars. Nearby Doncaster has rail links to Kings Cross and Doncaster Sheffield Airport is also approximately 20 minutes’ drive away. Both the A1(M) and M18 provide ready connections to the motorway infrastructure.