How a 16th century country estate in North Yorkshire has evolved to cope with the challenges of modern Britain

Ever since Cardinal Thomas Wolsey gifted 1,000 acres of land to the Staveley family for their loyal service, the North Stainley Estate has stood the test of time.

James Staveley, who owns the North Stainley Estate, has overseen a multi-million pound investment in housing and facilities including a new village hall which has been driven alongside the community living there. (Photo: Steve Riding)

That gesture by Henry VIII’s chief adviser in 1516 paved the way for one of the country’s many long-standing country estates.

But the challenges of modern Britain became all too apparent when Robert Staveley took over running it from his father, Miles, in the 1970s.

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The estate, four miles north of Ripon, like many others, was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy due to ever diminishing returns from farming and crippling post-Second World War death duties.

Radical change was needed and now with interests spanning house-building, energy, farming and leisure, the estate is one of the most diverse in the country and has doubled in size over the past 15 years.

The evolution started with Robert Staveley’s launch of a self-pick fruit business and the Lightwater Valley Theme Park, and at the heart of the estate’s long-term success has been the community that lives there.

James Staveley, who took over the running of the estate from his father in 2006, said: ““North Stainley has always been a traditional rural community, but just like the estate, it had to adapt to survive.”

The village of North Stainley is now seen as a national template for thousands of struggling rural settlements nationally.

Mr Staveley said: “The critical factor was to work with the local community to address the issues that forced people to leave the village against their will or stopped others seeing the village as a place they could live.”

One of the key challenges was a critical lack of housing and the need to attract a more diverse mix of people to the village. The number of homes has risen from just 30 properties to more than 200 houses during the last 40 years.

Whilst one of the village’s pubs, the Cross Keys, closed over 15 years ago, the remaining hostelry, The Staveley Arms, has seen a major investment and re-opened in the spring of last year.

One of the most prized assets is the new village hall, a purpose-built facility that cost almost £1m to construct.

A plan to complete the final phase of the estate’s vision is in the process of being finalised, which is set to see a further £55m invested in the village.

The ambitious plans will see a new primary school built to replace the existing Victorian building, as well as a new shop and a business park aimed at start-up businesses.

Long-running talks are continuing with Harrogate Borough Council and it is hoped a planning application will be submitted within the next 12 months.