Photo: James Sheldon right, with English Heritage architect Andy Wimble, in the grounds of Whitburn hall soon after its purchase. Picture by Craig Stennett
A man who died in a mystery fall at an historic Keighley mansion has been named.
James Sheldon, who was found at his home at Whinburn Hall in Utley, also ran a police-related electronics business.
Mr Sheldon, 42, died from multiple injuries during the incident at the Grade II listed building at 4.40pm on June 22.
An inquest into his death opened this week, but was adjourned for reports. There are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances.
The imposing gates of the Whinburn estate, off Hollins Lane, were this week locked, and nobody was replying to the two phone numbers printed at the gate.
Whinburn lodge, which is next to the gate, was boarded up and the main house could be seen further up the drive through the trees.
Neighbours this week said Mr Sheldon and his family rarely communicated with neighbours, but were occasionally seen coming and going to the property.
One woman said Mr Sheldon had socialised with neighbours when he first moved to Whinburn, but this stopped several years ago.
Mr Sheldon bought the ‘arts and crafts’ estate in 2008 with the intention of developing the house and reclaiming the gardens, with advice from English Heritage.
He told a local news paper at the time he wanted to turn the mansion into his family home, and was keen to restore the glory of the once-beautiful garden.
At the time, Mr Sheldon was based in Southport, where he had worked as the crew on a lifeboat for the previous 18 years.
Mr Sheldon served as the coxswain on the Southport Inshore Lifeboat, and on one occasion helped pull three daytrippers from quicksand on Southport Beach just minutes before they would have drowned.
Whinburn Hall is listed as the headquarters o the family-owned electronic solutions company Nav-comm, which specialises in designing and manufacturing LED lighting systems for emergency services.
Mr Sheldon was the company’s technical director in 2007, promoting the company’s range of new lighting systems for emergency vehicles and diggers.
When Nav-comm showed off the lights at the Great Yorkshire Show, as part of the JCB stand, they were inspected by HRH Prince Philip.
Nav-comm’s website now offers an expanded range of products for police vehicles, ambulances and inflatable boats, along with uniforms and training packages.
Several videos uploaded to YouTube earlier this year by Mr Sheldon depict high-tech security systems apparently under development by Nav-comm.
These include electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) devices that can stop suspect vehicles, boats and drones by scrambling their electronics.
Whinburn was built by Keighley textile tycoon Prince Smith between 1896 and 1913, and its elaborate gardens were laid out in the 1920s.
The building, which includes 16 bedrooms, oak floors and a mock-Gothic baronial hall, has in the past been used as a school and a special referral unit.
Owned by Bradford Council, it was closed in 2000 and remained disused until it was bought by Mr Sheldon in 2008.
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