Top talent that has worked at Bicester Village and London's Olympic Park returns to Yorkshire to take up new roles at Wentworth Woodhouse

A former hospitality boss at the Bicester Village designer outlet, a chef who once ran a restaurant in Cornwall and an events manager who worked at London's Olympic Park have joined the team at Wentworth Woodhouse.

New hires Darren Procter, Paula Kaye, Lydia Tickner and Gabriel Morrison with CEO Sarah McLeod
New hires Darren Procter, Paula Kaye, Lydia Tickner and Gabriel Morrison with CEO Sarah McLeod

Despite a challenging year, the preservation trust that owns the Grade I-listed stately home near Rotherham has continued to recruit talented specialist staff with local connections to develop the mansion and its gardens as a visitor attraction.

The team has now grown to over 50 employees and no redundancies have been made during the pandemic.

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Paula Kaye, who began her career in the food and drink industry as a waitress at Bettys, has joined as chief operating officer, having previously been food and beverage director at the Bicester Village outlet in Oxfordshire before setting up her own consultancy.

New head of hospitality Darren Procter with the estate's beehives

Now 52, Paula, from York, worked her way up from waiting tables to being catering and retail director for Bettys and Taylor's of Harrogate.

She said: “I am excited to join the Trust and build on the great work already done. I will be leading on a three-year business strategy, to support the next phase of accelerated growth for Wentworth Woodhouse. Our aim is to create a world-class visitor experience.”

Overseeing the day-to-day food and drink offer at Wentworth - which is set to include a new garden cafe and events space in the Camellia House alongside the current tearoom - will be former Sheffield Hallam University head chef Darren Procter who has been appointed head of hospitaity.

Darren, 43, lives in Hillsborough, Sheffield, and is a father of five whose wife is a social worker in Barnsley.

Paula Kaye is a former Bettys waitress who has worked her way up to the top of the hospitality industry

He previously ran his own restaurant in Cornwall and is keen to feature local produce and suppliers in Wentworth's menus.

“Harnessing my experience of driving a profitable business to support the Trust is a very exciting opportunity,” he said.

While the new events manager is 33-year-old Lydia Tickner, from Conisbrough near Doncaster, who has previously worked at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London and English Heritage sites Dover Castle and Osborne House, Queen Victoria's summer home on the Isle of Wight.

“Creating special memories for visitors in historic and outdoor settings is what I love. I jumped at the chance to join the team moving this once-in-a- lifetime regeneration project to its next phase of life," she said.

The fourth hire is former head of web at Sheffield-based The SEO Works Gabriel Morrison, who will be the new head of marketing and digital.

He will develop the Trust’s quest for digital engagement with supporters and visitors, plans which became ever-more relevant in the pandemic.

The house now has its own film production equipment and a video production team of trained volunteers. Informative films about life behind the scenes are being shown on TV screens in the mansion’s cafe and reception and on Wentworth's own YouTube channel, which launches soon.

Interactive digital experiences for family visitors are planned for summer in the house and gardens.

Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust CEO Sarah McLeod said: “We were closed for many months during the pandemic, but Wentworth Woodhouse has bounced back better than ever.

“We are proud that not a single redundancy has been made and in addition, more jobs have been created.

“The expertise of our new staff will further our 20-year masterplan for the site and ensure a bright future for a house that had slipped into decline.”