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Property investment

Mystery Hong Kong buyer snaps up ‘trophy’ 18th century Wentworth Woodhouse

The identity of the buyer of Europe's largest private residence remains a mystery

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2015, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2015, 10:50pm

A Hong Kong family office investment firm has bought an £8 million (HK$94 million), 350 room stately home in northern England, the latest sign of interest from Asian investors for palatial European trophy assets.

The 18th century Wentworth Woodhouse in South Yorkshire has five miles of corridors, sits in 250 acres of park, and is the largest private residence in Europe. It is argued by some to be the inspiration for Pemberley Hall in Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice.

Despite only paying the equivalent of a 3,500 square foot Mid Levels apartment, Wentworth’s new owner, the Lake House Group, will reportedly face a steep £42 million renovation bill following decades of degradation, and weakened foundations. The building is sinking owing to mineshafts under its foundations, according to the BBC.

The acquisition marks another headline purchase by well heeled Asian investors on the look out for historical European houses and vineyards.

The identities of the investors behind the Lakehouse Group are not known. A search of the company found no directors recorded, according to Bloomberg data.

Even at that price, the new owner of the Grade 1 listed house will face a bureaucratic “nightmare” should they want to turn it into a hotel or serviced apartments, says veteran property analyst Peter Churchouse.

They may be thinking, “For eight million quid I can afford to take the risk,” Churchouse said, assuming the buyer does not want to keep it as a private home.

Michelle Thomas, senior vice-president at Lake House, declined to comment on who was behind the investment and directed inquiries to real estate agents Savills, who brokered the sale.

Lake House beat a rival offer from a conservation consortium that included the UK’s National Trust.