About the Swinton Estate

History of the Swinton Estate

The family

The Swinton Estate land title has been in the ownership of the Cunliffe-Lister family since the 1880s, when Samuel Cunliffe-Lister bought the estate on retiring from his mill in Bradford, Manningham Mills (which at the time was the largest factory in Europe).

His grand-daughter Molly and husband Philip Lloyd-Graeme then took the family name on inheriting the estate and the family home, Swinton Park the Grade II* castle. Philip – 1st Viscount, was appointed Earl of Swinton in 1955.

An old black and white photo of the Cunliffe-Lister family
A modern photo of the Cunliffe-Lister family

Molly’s great-grandson Mark is the current 4th Earl of Swinton is now responsible for the running of the Swinton Estate and, along with his wife Felicity (the Countess of Swinton), converted Swinton Park into a hotel in 2001.

Prior to ownership by the Cunliffe-Lister family, the Estate was owned of the Danby family, dating back to the late 1600s. During the late 1700s the Danby family landscaped the Parkland, creating the Deer Park and Deer House, five lakes, woodland and gardens. They also commissioned the construction of the Druid’s Temple folly on the moors (which is now within the Druid’s Plantation at Swinton Bivouac).

Swinton Park

Swinton Park was originally a Georgian country house but became a “castle” in the early 1800s under the Gothic influence with the addition of the turret and castellations. When Samuel Cunliffe-Lister bought the Estate he carried out substantial building works, adding on the whole of the second floor, raising the height of the turret and adding the wing that is home to the palatial dining room (now Samuel’s Restaurant).

What existed before has to be pieced together from surprisingly scanty published evidence.

An historical sketch depicting the original house located at Swinton Park
An historical sketch depicting Swinton Park in North Yorkshire

There was a house here typical in its appearance of the late 17th Century: of five bays and three stories, with a top balustrade and a belvedere turret. An almost undecorated, uncompromising block. It was in fact, despite its appearance, early 18th Century; for John Warburton in 1719 called it “new built”.

Of that block more survives than one would hazard at first guess. It hides behind the porte-cochere and tower at the East end of the South range, and it faces thus the splendid East Gates of c1740-50s. They have three entrances, a broken pediment and alternating vermiculated rustication.

Inside, the secondary staircase with its early Georgian balusters still exists. But the glazed lantern is late 18th Century, and thus belongs to the great enlargement of c1800 by James Wyatt for William Danby. Wyatt added behind the old house a spacious south range with a wide bow window belonging to the large Drawing Room, two rooms left and right, and a long corridor behind ending to the north in a splendid staircase, with an octagonal lantern above it.

Even before Wyatt a long range had been added to the west with the ground-floor windows in blank arches, and also the stables with their thirteen-bay front, facing the east side of the south range across an ample courtyard.

An old photo of horses by the lake at Swinton Park in North Yorkshire
An old photo of deer at Swinton Park in North Yorkshire

Then, in 1821–1824. Robert Luger was called in, and he re-arranged much inside, added a story to the Wyatt range. Castellated everything, gave turrets to the west range, and, above all, provided the big round tower (with an elegant circular vestibule inside) and the porte-cochere in front of it.

Behind the west range and the stables further west, running west-east, is an outbuilding of six bays and two and a half-stories, which from its style must be contemporary with the earliest block, and may be earlier.

Neales Seats, 1828, says ‘about 30 years since’. The book also says the work was by Wyatt and Foss, alderman of Richmond, Mr Colvin suggests that he took over when Wyatt died to 1813.

For another gives 1813 as the date of the design of the south range. The staircase was mentioned in 1890, and other redecorating, was done at the same time.

The Swinton Estate today

Running alongside the operation of the Rural Estate, Mark and his wife Felicity have seen the launch of several successful enterprises on the Estate including the conversion of Swinton Park into a hotel in 2001, the Swinton Cookery School (2003), Swinton Birds of Prey (2006), Swinton Bivouac glamping campsite and café (2012), and the Swinton Country Club (2017). In 2019 the permissive paths in the 200 acres of Parkland and Gardens were opened to the public. 

Exterior photo of the luxury Swinton Park castle hotel on the Swinton Estate, where you can stay in North Yorkshire

Explore the Swinton Estate. Maps and walking routes are available from reception at both Swinton Park Hotel and Swinton Bivouac.