And now the true extent of the investment needed to restore Wentworth Woodhouse for the nation has been revealed.
The 18th-century stately home has a facade longer than that of Buckingham Palace and nobody is entirely sure how many rooms are inside the vast ancestral seat of the Earls Fitzwilliam, near Rotherham.
Wentworth Woodhouse to transform Georgian stable block into wedding venueAfter decades of neglect and decay, the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust have released a staggering breakdown of the cost required to fully re-open the house to the public, which they envisage will take 20 years.
The charitable trust bought the crumbling house in 2017 and began to survey the condition of the building and grounds.
Ongoing running costs include a £28,000 annual gas bill, yearly contents insurance of £50,00 (Wentworth is full of priceless treasures) and expenditure of £15,000 on electricity.
Although some repairs have begun - the roof is currently encased in a protective shell to allow work to take place - the Trust will have to depend on restoration grants and fundraising to complete other much-needed projects.
They have compiled a 'wish list' of immediate funding priorities, which includes:-
- A crystal chandelier which has hung in the Van Dyck Room for over 150 years. Cost to repair: £6,000
- A number of Georgian urns and statues that stand on the house's roof. Cost to repair: £8,750 each
Wentworth Woodhouse's restored 'secret' gardens are now open for public tours- The clock on top of the stable block, which has not worked in decades. Cost to repair: £70,000
- The main water pipe. Cost to replace: £100,000
- The 100-year-old central heating system. Cost to upgrade: £80,000
- Over 100 Georgian windows. Cost to repair: £1,500 each
A recent fundraising ball and auction themed around Catherine Bailey's book Black Diamonds, which tells the story of the house and the Fitzwilliam family, generated over £30,000 from members of the local business community. It was held in the Marble Saloon, a stateroom where a ball scene for the new Downton Abbey movie was filmed.
The Trust have also made the 'wish list' available to the public, who can donate towards essential items such as gardening and cleaning equipment.
Wentworth Woodhouse rooftop restoration uncovers the secret of an unexplored worldTrust chief executive Sarah McLeod said:-
“The challenges we face in protecting, operating and regenerating Wentworth Woodhouse are huge.
“We would even love to have help with our bills. Think about how much it runs to run your own house, add several zeros and you are close to our annual outgoings for utilities. We face annual bills of £28,000 for the gas central heating, £15,000 for electricity and buildings insurance costs us £50,000 a year.
“We would love to hear from anyone who can help make one of our wishes become reality.”
Currently, limited areas of the house are open for pre-booked tours, and there is a tearoom and gift shop, but several rooms are badly affected by damp and dry rot. The gardens are also being restored and tours are available.
Earlier this month plans to develop the stable block and listed Camellia House - which houses a rare plant collection - into wedding and events venues with the help of a £1.5million National Lottery Heritage Fund grant were unveiled.
Meet the gardeners who look after the grounds of Yorkshire's stately homesThe Fitzwilliams rented the house out to a ladies' teacher training college and later a university after World War Two - student accommodation from the 1960s can still be seen in the grounds. They sold Wentworth in 1989, although a branch of the family still own the estate farms and much of the village. It was then in private hands until the death of the last owner, Clifford Newbold, in 2015.
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