The latest edition of high society magazine Tatler reveals that Yorkshire is “the new county for the smart set”. February’s Tatler states: “With Castle Howard, Wentworth Woodhouse and Garrowby Hall to its name, God’s own county has always been grand – very grand. But now as sports stars and iconoclastic aristocrats all make their mark, Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s playground has truly arrived.”
Evidence for this was gathered from the Countess of Ronaldshay, whose family seat is Aske Hall in Richmond; Tom Naylor-Leyland, who oversees his family’s Fitzwilliam Malton estate in North Yorkshire; interior designer Harriette Murray Wills of Ness Hall near Nunnington and art dealer Willoughby Gerrish, who is the director of Thirsk Hall Sculpture Garden.
Tatler’s conclusion on the “smart set” in God’s Own County is: “This is England on steroids, where size matters and nobody’s backward about coming forward. And that means socially, too.”
Harriette Murray Wells says of the recent influx from the upper echelons of society: “The social scene has definitely got better now that so many of our friends are living here full-time. You really have got everything here: incredible landscapes, a beautiful coastline, hundreds of stately homes, so many interesting people, excellent schools, pretty towns, revitalised industrial cities. I mean, the estate agents are completely manic.”
Tom Naylor-Leyland, speaking of Malton’s transformation into Yorkshire’s food capital, an initiative that he led and which has also helped attract visitors from Britain and beyond, says: “Malton was already a thriving town when I came. It’s somewhere you can really live and have a family.
“People have got behind this idea of turning it into Yorkshire’s food capital, so now it has all these added perks, like really good coffee, wood-fired pizzas and, even though I am an enthusiastic meat-eater, an incredibly good vegan delicatessen where I have my lunch every day.”
The Countess of Ronaldshay adds: “The view from my kitchen table with my coffee in the morning is of the snow-capped Yorkshire moors. There’s really nothing quite like it. Anyone who lives there is generally coming home. It’s usually one half of a couple who was brought up here. Yorkshire just has this pull. It is a wonderful place to bring up children.”
Willoughby Gerrish concludes: “Anyone from Yorkshire will tell you how great it is, God’s own county and all that. It’s very tribal up here. But there’s an amazing community spirit. If you do something, you get a lot of support.”
Tatler’s assertions have been backed up by Robert Sheffield, heir to the title of 9th Baronet Sheffield, who recently relegated his London flat to second-home status to make Grade I listed stately home Sutton Park, near York, his primary residence. Robert, who runs contemporary art agency Sheffield & Wang, says: “I thought I might miss living in London but I absolutely love it here. Even if I go down to the City for meetings, I’ll get the train back here rather than stay over if I can.” Along with the rural beauty of Yorkshire, he is passionate about York’s cultural offerings and first class restaurants.
Blenkin and Co. estate agents, which specialises in top-end homes, confirms that Tatler assertion is correct, though marketing director Hilary Pegrum adds that the “smart set” largely confine their search for a home to North Yorkshire with demand highest in rural areas around York, where there are sought-after private schools and a choice of Michelin starred restaurants.
York’s fast rail link to London with journeys taking just two hours to King’s Cross is also a big pull. “We have definitely seen that demographic shift. North Yorkshire is now seen as a great place to be and a safe place to put family money,” says Hilary. “Quite often, those moving here have no connection in the area but they have friends up here who have recommended it, so there is a spiralling effect.”
What’s surprising is why it took the “smart set” so long to discover Yorkshire’s many charms. As Hilary points out, why choose the Cotswolds when Yorkshire offers everything from great towns and cities to beautiful countryside and coast, country pursuits, excellent private schools, racecourses and equestrian facilities?
She adds that schooling is very important to wealthy buyers who will only move here if they can get their child a place at a particular private school. Other well-heeled individuals have been buying homes in Yorkshire to bridge the gap between their home in London or the Home Counties and an estate in Scotland, as it is halfway between.
The most sought-after properties are set in their own parkland though the hoi polloi may never see them as they are often advertised “off market”.
*The February issue of Tatler magazine is on sale now.
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