A self-made property millionaire has restored Langton Hall. Now he plans to share it and fans of Gentleman Jack can’t wait

Langton Hall, near Malton, has a new lease of life and a new look

He made his fortune buying and building homes to let, so it’s rare for 37-year-old William Langton to allow his heart to rule his head when it comes to property. Langton Hall, near Malton, is an exception. He has just spent more than £1m renovating what was a decaying country pile after falling for its charms.

It shares his surname and he admits that caused a frisson, as did learning that the hall was the location of Britain’s earliest documented lesbian relationship – that of Anne Lister, aka Gentleman Jack, and Isabella Norcliffe. The hall was Isabella’s family home.

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He was also impressed that the property was used by the Guards Armoured Division as a base for D-Day landing preparations and was reputedly visited by the Royal family and Winston Churchill during that time. But what really swung the deal for William was the location in the idyllic Wolds village of Langton and the fact that the Georgian property desperately needed “doing up”. His commitment to buying the house was certainly tested.

William's bedroom suite is a replica of that in his home in Leeds

A keen yachtsman, he had just splashed out on a new Sunseeker boat and wasn’t expecting to make another large financial outlay when he spotted an advert for the hall in this newspaper’s Property Post supplement. “The timing wasn’t great but I felt I had to go and view it. It looked interesting and my initial thoughts were that I could restore it and maybe sell it,” he says.

It took him many months to buy the property from the Norcliffe’s descendants. They had leased it to Woodleigh prep school between 1946 and 2012 and it had been empty for seven years before William got the keys in January last year. “I think anyone else would have walked away but by that point I’d fallen for the house,” says William, who has made it his main home.

There are 11 bedrooms and nine bathrooms but he has turned the six-bedroom north wing into a holiday let. When he is away sailing or skiing, he is happy to let the whole house out.

This income, along with cash from four holiday cottages he has created from former servants’ accommodation, will help finance the restoration of the exterior of the building and the sprucing up of the 20 acre grounds, which include a waterfall.

Langton Hall is an idyllic location close to Malton

He has already spent nine months on the project. Years of use as a school and a lack of investment in the building took its toll but William looks on the bright side: “The school put in an outdoor swimming pool and tennis court and an indoor basketball-badminton court, so that did me a real favour because it would have cost a fortune for me to install them myself.

“Most of the money I spent was on rewiring, plumbing, plastering and woodwork.”

Fortunately, while the Grade II listed house had wonderful Georgian windows and a magnificent staircase, there were few fancy period features which are costly to repair. “There was very little in the way of ornate embellishment,” says William, who has added innovative touches, including enormous French doors in the sitting room that look exactly like original sliding sash windows . He also turned what was the school library into a beautiful living kitchen warmed by an Esse stove.

He planned the interior design himself and sourced all the furniture and furnishings. There are some period pieces but many are high street buys. “I kept some of the rooms more traditional, including the old servants’ kitchen and the sitting room. I was lucky to have a book of paintings done in 1832 by Mary Ellen Best. She visited Langton Hall and painted some of the rooms so her pictures helped inform how I decorated them.”

William in the new snooker room

Others, including his own bedroom suite, are more contemporary. Not a drop of Farrow and Ball has been used. The paint is Dulux and some of the wallpaper is from Graham and Brown and B&Q with some accessories from TK Maxx.

The North wing has been carefully thought out to cater for all ages and tastes. One of the bathrooms is inspired by the industrial look and there’s even a children’s room with cartoon murals and lava lamps. All guests have use of the snooker room with its full-size, refurbished table that started life in a Barnsley snooker club.

The transformation of the 14,700 sq ft house was funded by income from his property empire. William, who grew up in Bridlington, is the son of two opticians and is a born entrepreneur blessed with boundless energy, enthusiasm and charm. “I didn’t get a very good degree as I always had a side hustle going on but I did come out of university with £140,000”, he says, referring to the profit he made on his first home.

Working a variety of jobs while studying for an electrical engineering degree at Manchester University, gave him a £20,000 deposit for a terraced house in the city.

The new kitchen with a cosy Esse stove

He bought it for £80,000, overpaid his mortgage and sold it for £186,000 when he graduated, after which he took a detour into the marquee hire business. He tired of “tents”, sold his stock for £500,000 and put the money into property. “I was going to do an MBA in London but I had nine months to wait until it started so I started looking at property and ended up at an auction in Leeds at the beginning of 2009,” he says.

It was just after the economic crash when repossessed homes bought by investors were auctioned off at rock bottom prices. “I’d buy them for £80,000 each and spend £20,000 each on renovating them so they were worth £125,000. I was averaging one a month,” says William. He then began buying plots of land and built apartments on them, which helped grow his rental property portfolio to more than 100 homes. More recently he has diversified into tax-efficient holiday lets in quirky buildings.

“I’ve got my own construction team, which helps and it helped when it came to doing Langton Hall,” says William, who adds that his country home is “a keeper”.

“I’ll keep an apartment in Leeds but this is my principal residence now. It’s a house for life because I know I’ll never find anything like it again. I can look out onto the most amazing views and not see another man-made building. This is a very special place.”

For details about holiday lets at Langton Hall visit www.langtonhall.org and follow it on Instagram @langtonhallyorkshire

The sitting room is decorated in traditional style
One of the rooms available to let
A new bathroom with a view and twin baths