A £30m new chapter is to be written in the astonishing history of a Yorkshire stately home which a multi-millionaire shipping tycoon bequeathed to his Swiss nurse – making her one of the richest women in Britain overnight.
Trudi Tanner was swamped with marriage offers after her boss William Headlam died in 1991, leaving her the 80 acre Raithwaite Hall estate at Sandsend, near Whitby, and the bulk of his 7m fortune.
It is understood Miss Tanner, now 73, gave up running the estate off Sandsend Road a couple of years ago when she retired to a house in the nearby village.
Yesterday it was announced North Yorkshire developers the Skelwith Group had bought the land and would develop it into a five star hotel – with an eye on wealthy Londoners who are expected to fly up by helicopter for weekend breaks.
The 30m development, to be complete by 2010, will include a 42 bedroom hotel featuring a state-of-the-art spa and will be a sister hotel to the Skelwith Group's 100m Flaxby Country Club, located between York and Harrogate.
Paul Ellis, the Skelwith Group's managing director, said: "Raithwaite Hall will be a fantastic destination in its own right but will also be a perfect fit to complement the Flaxby. The area is crying out for a good quality hotel and spa to add to the heritage and history of the town and area."
The rooms will be sold to individual investors. A fine dining restaurant and luxury bar will also be included, as well as a conference and function area seating 180 people. A planning application has just been submitted and work is expected to start in January, creating more than 100 jobs.
David Andrews, chief executive of the Yorkshire Tourist Board, said: "Consumers are continually seeking higher standards of accommodation and this is exactly what the area needs.Whitby has a fantastic tourist offering so this development will only enhance the area and encourage visitors to spend more time and money in the town.
"It's good to see developers backing the future strength of the Yorkshire Tourist economy."
Raithwaite Hall has always been regarded as a monument to the success of the Headlam family, of Whitby. The company was started by William's father, William Aaron Headlam, a Victorian philanthropist whose many good deeds included building Whitby War Memorial Cottage Hospital.
He was seen every Sunday in the pews of St Hilda's church on the West Cliff, to which he presented a magnificent organ in memory of his eldest son John, a lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps, who was killed in the first World War, aged 19, six months before the Armistice.
Tragedy struck again in 1930 when his second son Leonard, a leading sports car racer, was killed in an accident on Blue Bank, Whitby, while driving his Alfa Romeo to a race meeting, leaving his remaining brother William sole heir to the Headlam steamship empire.
When war broke out again in 1939 William Jnr acquired Raithwaite Hall, formerly the home of the Pymans shipping family, and turned it into the company HQ after his offices in Whitby were bombed. It remained the company office until the business was formally wound up in 1994.
Mr Headlam died at the hall, aged 81, four years after his company's last vessel, the 15,000 ton Egton, was sold to Finland for scrap after seven years rusting in Hartlepool.
Miss Tanner, who was then 56 and had cared for Mr Headlam for 20 years since his second marriage ended, was said to be very upset by the flood of romantic letters and flowers from strangers.
She spent her time at the hall in seclusion. About her life-changing legacy, she has never spoken a word.