The man who ran Castle Howard, the stately home made famous in two major TV series, has indicated in court that he will plead not guilty to charges of child sex offences.
Simon Howard appeared at York Magistrates’ Court on Monday accused of indecent assault and incitement to commit an act of gross indecency in 1984.
Howard ran the Castle Howard estate, which featured in Brideshead Revisited and the Netflix show Bridgerton, for more than 30 years.
He appeared before District Judge Adrian Lower by video link for the brief hearing on Monday afternoon.
The court heard that he is charged with one count of indecent assault against a girl under the age of 14 and another of inciting the same girl to commit an act of gross indecency.
Both offences are alleged to have taken place between January 1 and March 31 1984.
Howard indicated that he would enter not guilty pleas to both counts and District Judge Lower sent the case to York Crown Court.
He told Howard: “The matters you face are too serious to be dealt with at this court and so they will be allocated to the crown court at York and your first appearance there will be on March 15.”
The 65-year-old appeared frail but followed the short hearing carefully.
Simon Howard ran Castle Howard for 30 years. When the incidents were alleged to have taken place, he was married to his first wife and living at the family estate.
He stepped down five years ago amid reports of a family row and his elder brother Nicholas took over.
Simon is credited with turning the stately home into the hugely popular visitor attraction it is today.
Suffered from Covid
He now lives at nearby Welham Hall with his second wife, Rebecca Sieff.
He spent time in hospital last year being treated for a brain haemorrhage. In October he caught Covid. Educated at Eton, he was an art consultant for Sotheby’s from 2009 to 2018.
A family statement released last week said Howard strongly denies the charges.
It read: “Simon Howard’s whole family are shocked by these allegations and are fully supportive of SH’s confidence that he is innocent of all charges – which he denies in the strongest possible terms.”
In a statement, the Castle Howard estate said: “Simon Howard is no longer involved with Castle Howard, having stepped down as a director and shareholder five years ago.”