AN historic house built more than 500 years ago is opening its doors to the public for the first time.

Sitting in its own private valley on the edge of the Wolds, Birdsall House was built in 1540 by the Sotheby family on the ruins of a monastery from the 12th century.

In 1719 Thomas Willoughby, the younger son of 1st Lord Middleton, was travelling over the Yorkshire Wolds from Nottingham when he lost his way in a snowstorm.

He followed a light he saw in the distance which led him to Birdsall House where the Sotheby family gave Thomas refuge for the night. Thomas fell in love with the Sotheby’s only daughter and heiress, Elizabeth, and they married soon after.

Henry Willoughby, Thomas and Elizabeth’s son, lived at Birdsall following the death of his parents, inheriting the Middleton title in 1781, along with Middleton Hall in Warwickshire and Wollaton Hall in Nottingham.

Wollaton Hall and Middleton Hall were sold by the 11th Lord Middleton in 1923 and since then the Willoughby family have lived solely at Birdsall. The house is currently home to the Honourable James and Lady Cara Willoughby and their three children

The main wing of the house will now be available for exclusive use by the public, including a ballroom, dining room and a state room named the Oval Room, the width of which was built to equal the spectacular jump of Henry Willoughby’s horse in 1790 and includes a number of items of historical importance.

Six bedrooms have also undergone complete renovation, bringing them into the 21st century while complementing the home’s history. This includes a bridal suite with double bath and views over the Wolds and the home’s own lake.

Lady Willoughby said: “Birdsall House has so much history and is a truly awe-inspiring setting for a celebration.

“We take a lot of pride in our home and it’s taken a lot of hard work to ensure the new bedrooms match the standard of the main reception rooms.

“We are proud to have created a warm, unpretentious venue that I hope lots of people will create lasting memories in.”

Birdsall House’s first wedding showcase will take place on Sunday April 29, from 11am to 4pm. For details, go to