Wentworth Woodhouse to become world-class visitor attraction

Visionary plans to transform Wentworth Woodhouse into a world-class visitor attraction and put Rotherham on the map are to be unveiled at Downing Street.

The charitable trust which now owns the Grade I listed Georgian masterpiece will be launching its Masterplan at a reception being hosted at 11 Downing Street with the permission of Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, on Monday October 15.

The bold plan, described as innovative, modern and ’mixed use’, aims to make Wentworth Woodhouse as famous as in its 18th century heyday, when it was on a par with Chatsworth House and Blenheim Palace.

It was Hammond who awarded a grant of £7.6 million to Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust in his Autumn 2016 Statement.

The money was for vital roof repairs to halt damage to magnificently decorated rooms created from 1735 by the Marquess of Rockingham and the Earls of Fitzwilliam.

Now the trust aims to awaken the house from its slumber with a range of schemes detailed in the 220-page Masterplan.

The document is the result of a year spent gathering and examining workable schemes, advice from heritage experts and the opinions of 1,500 members of the public who took part in the consultation process.

Its key aims are to restore and protect Grade I and Grade II* listed features and ensure the house and its estate flourishes financially so its future is never threatened again.

The complex restoration work will become an attraction in itself. Uniquely, visitors will be able to witness work as it takes place and talk to restoration teams on hard-hat and Hi-Viz tours.

The house will also boast an artisan construction school to up-skill local people in heritage and restoration construction and lead to the creation of its own skilled workforce.

“The Chancellor’s invitation for us to unveil our plans is testament to the huge national significance of what is arguably Britain’s greatest restoration project for a generation, and its solid cross-party support,” commented WWPT chair Julie Kenny CBE, the tenacious Rotherham businesswoman who founded the trust in 2014 and fought for three years to enable the purchase the house from private ownership.

“The Masterplan is the start of an exciting journey, a catalyst for change for the people whose lives the trust touches and the communities we serve.

“For three centuries the house was the hub of social and economic life across South Yorkshire and we intend to make it so once again.”

When WWPT took on the site in March 2017 it found the mansion, stables, riding school, camelia house and 83 acres in a critical state of decay – buildings riddled with asbestos, collapsed drains, endemic dry rot, leaking roofs, rotting timbers and deteriorating stonework.

With just one phone line, an intermittent internet connection, a handful of committed staff and a single vacuum cleaner, it began the task of raising the phoenix from the ashes.

A year on, WWPT has 19 staff, 100 volunteers and has established a business now generating a healthy income from retail and catering, events and as a location for weddings, film and TV productions.

Sarah McLeod, CEO of WWPT commented: “Our masterplan will not only restore a national asset, it will regenerate a community. As this once great house rises again, it will be both an economic driver and a world-class tourism attraction.

“It will improve the lives of people in Rotherham, one of the most socially-deprived areas of the UK, by providing training in construction, catering and customer services and creating jobs.

“It’s an exciting time. Now we have a clear and concise vision, work can begin to make things happen. The Masterplan will underpin all our funding applications and our bid to find support from the private sector across the world.”

  • After the Downing Street launch, the full Masterplan will available in downloadable form at www.Wentworthwoodhouse.org.uk and copies of the executive summary ‘Wentworth Woodhouse: A New Life’ will be distributed throughout the Rotherham borough