Doncaster tycoon ordered to sell off country house after bitter court battle with daughter

A Doncaster businessman has been ordered to sell off his multi-million country estate and give half to his daughter after a bitter family feud.

A judge has ordered Wood House in Edlington to be sold off.
A judge has ordered Wood House in Edlington to be sold off.

A High Court judge has told Charlie Hughes, 91, who made his fortune as a rags to riches scrap dealer, that he must hand over half of his estate in Edlington to his daughter Lisa, 60.

Mr Hughes owns a sprawling and luxurious property deep in the middle of Edlington Wood called Wood House.

However, six years ago, family tensions boiled over, with the family splitting into two separate groups which saw Lisa and her father and brother clash through the courts over the property.

Mr Hughes and his wife Nora built up the metal recycling business – but the couple’s three children took different sides, Lisa backing mum Nora, who died in 2017 at the age of 87, and John, 62, siding with dad Charlie with both claiming the property had been promised to them.

The court heard that following her death, she left her half of the house and 25 acres of remaining woodland to Lisa but John challenged this and insisted it was not his mother's to give.

He claimed his parents had bought the estate for him and wife Lorraine in 1984 with Charlie agreeing with a 'horse dealer's handshake' that it would be in the parents' names but eventually 'willed' to John - who spent £100,000 transforming it from a dilapidated wreck.

But, after a bitter High Court battle, Judge Andrew Lenon has now ruled in Lisa's favour and ordered that most of the family's estate be sold off with her getting half the proceeds.

Judge Lenon said: 'Whatever Charles may have told John, it is clear to me on the evidence that Nora, who "ruled the roost", never agreed that John and Lorraine would become the owners of Wood House and that she always made this abundantly clear to members of her family.'

The court heard Nora and Charlie had built a fortune, having started off with a 'rag trade' business in the East End which had been inherited from Charlie's father and grandfather.

They had three children and married in 1982, living together until 1993, after which they remained on good terms, but living apart after it was revealed Charlie had had a number of extra marital affairs.

In evidence, Charlie told the judge: 'Whatever else happened we had a bond, but I did feel guilty about the affairs and it meant that I tended to over-compensate in some ways. I would let Nora make the final decision about things in order that I had a quiet life.

'If it was a business decision or involved a large sum of money we would discuss together. But anything relating to my daughter Lisa, Nora decided and I would usually back down if I disagreed. She was the apple of Nora's eye. Nora would always stick up for her whatever she did.'

The parents had always intended that Lisa and John would get equal shares of their fortune, with their second son David, 52, getting £1million, before Nora had a change of heart close to her death, the court heard.

She severed her joint ownership of the house and woodland with her estranged husband and changed her will, leaving her interest in it to Lisa alone.

But rejecting the father and son's case, the judge said: 'In my judgment, the reason that there are no documents evidencing the existence of the alleged 1984 agreement is that there was no such agreement.'

He added: 'John and Lorraine may have hoped that they would one day acquire Wood House and the 25 acres, but the fact that they did not take steps to ensure that the property was transferred or that the wills provided for the property to be left to them suggests that they knew full well that Nora would never agree to this.'

The judge accepted Lisa's case that the estate was half her mum's and that she would have wanted her daughter to get her fair share.

And he went on to make an order for sale of the majority of the estate, including Wood House.