Wentworth Woodhouse to open Georgian stables to the public for the first time

For well over a century, Wentworth Woodhouse's stables were the largest in the country.

The stable block, built in 1782 to house horses, carriages and grooms, is the first building that visitors to the Fitzwilliam family's ancestral seat pass as they turn onto the main drive that leads to the Grade I-listed stately home. The Palladian frontage is so imposing that many a new arrival has mistaken the stables for the mansion itself.

Yet for the past 30 years, very few people have been inside it and it has fallen into disrepair.

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The complex - which once had a riding school, 84 stalls, a saddlery and accommodation for grooms and stable boys set around a courtyard with a fountain as its centrepiece - has changed use several times over the years, beginning with the decline of carriage travel in favour of the motor car, which saw part of the site converted into garages.

The stable block and courtyard have fallen into neglectThe stable block and courtyard have fallen into neglect
The stable block and courtyard have fallen into neglect

Its 20th-century history has been varied and eclectic - the stables have served as estate offices, were requisitioned by the army during World War Two, and were later converted into classrooms, science laboratories and a gym during the house's post-war years as the Lady Mabel College of Physical Education, where women trained as PE teachers. During Sheffield City Polytechnic's tenancy, a swimming pool, squash courts and a bar were added.

Since the Fitzwilliams sold the house and grounds in 1989, the stables have been neglected and rarely used - but now the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, who bought the mansion for the nation in 2017, have announced they will breathe life into this impressive appendage to the main house once again.

Tours of the stables will begin this week ahead of ambitious plans to transform the buildings into a restaurant, events space and retail units.

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From October 7, groups of 10 will be escorted around the site twice a day by an experienced guide.

The stables once had room for 84 horses as well as storage for carriagesThe stables once had room for 84 horses as well as storage for carriages
The stables once had room for 84 horses as well as storage for carriages

They will be able to find out more about the current condition of the stables, and see the redevelopments of the 1940s and 50s - instigated by the military - and later additions by Lady Mabel College which wiped away traces of their original equestrian function.

Masks must be worn during the tour and visitors with mobility issues are warned that the route includes numerous steps.

Tickets cost £12 for adults and £6 for children, with a 50 per cent discount for National Trust members, and can be booked on the Wentworth Woodhouse website.

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