SHERIFF Hutton Castle will remain in its current ownership after a £1.3 million bid to buy the property fell through.

The estate, which includes a four-bedroom, a two-bedroom cottage, as well as 11 acres of land featuring the castle’s ruins and gardens, including a dungeon underneath one of its four towers, was put on the market in 2007.

Its current owners, Dr Richard Howarth, and his wife, Jenny, both in their 70s, decided to downsize after living in the castle grounds for 20 years.

However, Dr Howarth confirmed they had now decided not to sell the estate, despite agreeing a £1.3 million deal with a family from West Lilling who wanted to buy the premises.

He said: “It had become a very protracted and intrusive process and we began to have second thoughts.

“The stress of not having anywhere to go to was far too much so we didn’t feel it was right to sell it at this stage.”

Dr Howarth said the nature of the estate made it very complicated to sell and he said they could not find a suitable place to move into.

He said: “It is a very big responsibility for somebody to take on, which frightens off a lot of potential buyers.

“There is nothing vaguely suitable in the area. We have to stay in the area because we have still got 56 acres of land here.”

Victoria Selby-Jerrold, of West Lilling, had hoped to buy the estate as their family home.

She said: “There has been a lot of local interest in the castle. It has been on the market for a while and the price just crept into our range.”

She said they made an offer, which was accepted by the Howarths, and they held meetings with English Heritage about how they could improve the castle, which is on the “at risk” register.

She said they planned to put a wooden viewing platform in one of the towers and open the private estate up to public.

Dr Howarth said there were no “critical” problems with the castle and they would look at downsizing again when they could no longer maintain it.

Fact file

Sheriff Hutton Castle was built by John Neville between 1382 and 1400, and passed down through the family until the death of Richard Neville at the Battle of Barnet in 1471.

The castle and its lands were then given to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who later became King Richard III.

In 1484, Richard established the Council of the North, with Sheriff Hutton castle as one of its main bases, and it remained so for the next century and a half.

The castle was eventually taken by Henry VII, and belonged to no less than eight monarchs, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

However, it fell into ruin and was acquired by the Ingram family in 1622, and remained in the family until the early 20th century.

In 1919, it was bought by Dr Howarth’s grandfather, a West Yorkshire businessman.

When he inherited the pile from his father, Dr Howarth left his job as a senior fellow at the University of Bangor and moved back to his childhood home in Ryedale in 1995.