Wentworth Woodhouse lit up in spectacular VE Day tribute

Yorkshire's largest country house has been illuminated in patriotic colours to mark VE Day.

Wentworth Woodhouse has been lit up in patriotic colours for VE Day
Wentworth Woodhouse has been lit up in patriotic colours for VE Day

The East Front of Grade I-listed Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham, has been lit up by lighting technician Kevin Harper, whose Wakefield-based business often works on events and weddings at the house.

The facade - which is longer than that of Buckingham Palace - has already been illuminated with the blue NHS logo during the lockdown.

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18th-century Wentworth Woodhouse is owned by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, who bought the decaying property in 2017, after it had been in private ownership for around 30 years.

Their eventual aim is to open it fully to the public, as well as the restored gardens, and to convert the stables into an events venue.

Their progress during the past three years has seen the trust recruit a large staff and volunteer force, open up parts of the house for guided tours, begin an events programme and secure several heritage restoration grants to fund urgent repair work.

A project to restore the roof to save the rooms below from damp and dry rot is stll going ahead, with contractors remaining on the site during lockdown.

However, vital income generators such as weddings and events have been cancelled and most staff have been furloughed.

The house is the ancestral seat of the Earls of Fitzwilliam, whose great wealth in the 19th and early 20th centuries was derived from the coal mines and ironworks they owned near their vast estate. The family were so prominent that they even hosted a royal visit by King George V and Queen Mary in 1912, when the couple toured the Fitzwilliam collieries and foundries.

Their fortunes fell after World War Two, when they were crippled by death duties and forced to lease Wentworth to a teacher training college. The direct male line of descent became extinct and the remaining members of the family retreated to apartments within the house until they finally sold it in the 1980s.

Wentworth was subsequently in private ownership, but the costs of its upkeep - the house has more than 300 rooms - meant that its condition began to deteriorate. The parkland remained open to the public but the house and gardens were out of bounds.

Nowadays, the estate farms and the village of Wentworth are still in the hands of the Fitzwilliams' descendants, who live at Milton Hall in Peterborough. The town of Malton is also part of the wider Fitzwilliam Estate through the Milton Hall branch.

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