When a young Charles Barker rode past Crosby Court, he knew that one day he would buy it. And so he did.
The country-house market in North Yorkshire took off in style at the tail end of May with the launch onto the market — at a guide price of £4.95 million through Knight Frank — of the immaculate, 117-acre Crosby Court estate, three miles from the North Riding county town of Northallerton, at the northern end of the Vale of York.
The estate offers everything a sporting family could wish for, including a fine, Grade II-listed country house set on high ground in the middle of its land and surrounded by pristine formal gardens, a tennis court, a swimming pool, cottages, stabling and farm buildings, with glorious views over rolling grassland as far as the eye can see.
Held by the monks of Rievaulx Abbey until the Dissolution and later part of the manor known as Crosby Cote, Crosby Court was acquired in 1791 by the Dent family, who were major landowners throughout the north of England; it was probably they who built the main Georgian part of the present house.
The large Victorian extension is thought to have been added by the Consett family, who bought Crosby Court in about 1860 and owned it until 1920 when the ‘fine Georgian mansion seated in a Grandly Timbered Park (with) 40 fertile Mixed Farms and Numerous Small Holdings’ was sold at auction in the aftermath of the First World War.
The ‘fine Georgian mansion’ and its surrounding parkland were bought by George Pearson, a colonel in the Royal Field Artillery and the principal of pit-prop importers, William Pearson & Co.
He owned the estate until his death in 1947, when it was bought by the Kellet family, local entrepreneurs who lived there for 50 years before selling to the late Charles Barker, scion of one of north Yorkshire’s best-known farming, hunting and showjumping families, and his wife, Melanie, in 1998.
Mrs Barker relates how, even as a boy riding across the estate with his father, Charles dreamed of owning Crosby Court, although, by the time he and his wife moved there, the house and grounds were in a very different state of repair.
‘The Georgian part of the house was blocked off from the Victorian side and hadn’t been lived in for years. Occupied by the army during the Second World War, it had trees growing in through the windows and was generally in poor condition; the grounds and ponds were also littered with dead trees’, Mrs Barker recalls.
‘We duly embarked on a major renovation of the house and grounds and, three years later, we finally broke through the wall separating the Georgian and Victorian wings, thus restoring the building to its original configuration. Thereafter, as funds permitted, each year we undertook a different project either in the house or elsewhere on the estate, including the planting of 500 trees.’
Approached by a long tree-lined drive, surrounded by its gardens, parkland and various belts of woodland, the largest some 35 acres in size, Crosby Court is built of brick under a slate roof and boasts many fine Georgian features, including elegant fireplaces, polished wood floors, panelled doors and ornate carved cornices.
The main house offers 13,293sq ft of light-filled living space, including reception and staircase halls, five reception rooms, a large kitchen/breakfast room, staff quarters, a large master suite, three guest bedrooms with bathrooms, four further bedrooms and three family bathrooms.
The recently completed guest annexe has its own separate entrance, plus a small terrace and garden. Further accommodation is available in the two-bedroom Lodge Cottage, the pretty, three-bedroom Honeysuckle Cottage and the former coach house, which has been converted to three cottages — two with one bedroom, the other with two.
The gardens at Crosby Court are mainly lawned, with York paving on the south and west facing terraces, which are bordered by yew and laurel hedging. Behind the house, a Japanese garden leads to the swimming pool and tennis court.
Elsewhere in the garden, the beautifully restored Victorian glasshouse was the setting for a very special small family wedding in the midst of the Covid pandemic.
Northallerton: What you need to know
Location: Northallerton is located in North Yorkshire at the northern tip of the Vale of York. The closest rail station is in Northallerton, offering an east coast main line service and links to London King’s Cross.
Atmosphere: This is a thriving market town with a rich history — said to have hosted Charles Dickens whilst he wrote Nicholas Nickelby, and the town church dating back to 1120.
Things to do: There are countless walks and countryside pursuits to take advantage of in the area, including shooting at Thimbley shooting ground. The town is home to numerous tea rooms, restaurants, cafes, bars and independent shops and also has a fresh produce market twice a week in the highstreet.
Schools: Applegarth Primary and Broomfield School are good primary options in the area, with Northallerton School and Sixth Form College and Yarm School offering options for secondary.
Catch up on the best country houses for sale this week that have come to the market via Country Life.