Wentworth Woodhouse reveal more about plans for conversion of listed Camellia House into a cafe as work begins

Almost 300 years ago, tea was taken in the Camellia House at Wentworth - and now exciting plans will see the Grade II-listed building become a dining room once again.

Consultants appointed to restore the Camellia House

It was announced last year that the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust intended to restore the Georgian orangery and preserve its rare camellias after gardeners had sensationally rediscovered the neglected plants while exploring the semi-derelict structure.

Now architects have been appointed for the scheme and more details have been released.

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Nineteen rare camellias imported in the 18th century still survive despite decades of neglect

The Camellia House will become a daytime cafe for visitors to the grounds, and an evening events venue with the 18th-century specimens at its heart. Although considerable restoration and renovation work has already taken place at the Grade I-listed mansion, this will be the first project to bring an ancillary building back into use.

When it was built in 1738, the estate was owned by the Marquess of Rockingham and it was an orangery where exotic fruits were grown. His wife created a tearoom for entertaining her guests inside.

The second Marquess became an avid collector of camellias, which he imported from China and Japan, and he converted the hothouse into a home for his treasured specimens, 19 of which have survived to the present day and are some of the oldest examples in Europe.

The roof had suffered severe damage and most of the remaining camellias were exposed to the elements for decades. They are to have 'pride of place' within the new cafe, having been forgotten about since the Fitzwilliam family rented the house out after World War Two.

Architects Donald Insall Associates are currently seeking planning permission from Rotherham Council, while Leeds-based quantity surveyors Rex Procter and Partners and project managers DTS Solutions have also won contracts.

Other schemes involving the outbuildings currently in the pipeline include the Riding School as a major conference and events space, part of the stable block as retail units and the Ostler's House as guest accommodation.

Project manager David Trevis-Smith said: “We would love the public to share with us old photos and any memories they have of the Camellia House.

“As heritage specialists we constantly learn about the buildings as we work on them, but there are things we will never find out from examining bricks and mortar.

“Having more pieces of the jigsaw will help us greatly in the planning process. Local people whose ancestors worked in the house and gardens, or who visited decades ago could hold fascinating nuggets of information.”

The work will be funded by a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant awarded in 2019.