For sale: Luxurious 17th century mansion complete with cricket pitch, designer kitchen, Norman cellar – and also a spine-chilling curse on whoever owns it.
It could be yours for 6m – but according to folklore, whoever ends up the new owner of Howsham Hall, a listed stately home, near Malton, may find money cannot buy happiness.
The hall is on the market for only the third time in 400 years, and estate agents say its grand history and luxurious trappings are of more interest to buyers than the curse reputed to hang over the property.
The legend dates back to 1610 when Sir William Bamburgh was accused of benefiting from the destruction of nearby Kirkham Priory, a religious community founded by Lord of Helmsley Walter l'Espec in the 1120s.
L'Espec also founded Rievaulx Abbey close to his estate, and a smaller abbey in Bedfordshire. But Kirkham was built as a poignant tribute to l'Espec's only son, who died close to the site in a fall from a horse.
It continued as a community until Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. When the Bamburghs began building their country seat 70 years later they found that the nearby ruins provided a ready-made supply of stone and timber.
But it was sacrilege to some and a curse was said to have been put on Howsham Hall and its owners, so that – just like Walter l'Espec – they would lose their male offspring.
According to the so-called Curse of Kirkham, "All male heirs of the estate would perish" and "true happiness would never come to that family or its successors".
However, so far potential buyers seem more interested in the seven bedroom suites, five reception rooms and snooker room, 83 acres of parkland, and lawns laid out as a cricket pitch, plus a boathouse and fishing rights on the nearby River Derwent.
Estate agent Ben Pridden, of Savills in York, said they had had inquiries from as far away as Budapest and no one had raised the so-called curse as an issue.
He added: "Every old house these days has some tale attached to it, whether it is a ghost or a curse. The curse was probably put on the house at the same time they were drowning witches.
"It would be more of a worry if someone had been murdered in it last week. We find people in this day and age are generally less superstitious.
"We've had an incredible response since it went on the market in June, having shown round over a dozen people who have had a serious interest in it."
The house had been sold to the present owner After being run as a prep school. He had decided to sell because he spent so much time overseas and had nearly finished converting the property back into a private house.
A Savills spokesman added: "This really is a one-off. Houses of this quality very rarely come to the market. For a property with no agricultural land, it's probably the most important property on the market in Yorkshire at the moment."
Four families have owned the hall down the years - the Bamburghs, Wentworths, Cholmleys, and the Stricklands.
Scarborough historian Jack Binns dismissed the curse as bunkum, saying both the Cholmley and Strickland family names had continued until the present day.
He added: "Virtually every gentleman's house in the country is built of monastery and priory stone so there would not be an aristocratic family left alive if it was true."
Curse or not, whoever ends up owning Howsham Hall will be getting a bargain. Property experts have already estimated the stately home would be valued at 10m if it was in the South of England.
For more of the region's best properties see the Property Post supplement in Saturday's Yorkshire Post.