Yorkshire stately home Wentworth Woodhouse has been handed a £1.5million National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to restore three buildings on the estate.
The Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust will be able to renovate the derelict Camellia House in the gardens and the Georgian stable block and riding school with the cash.
They plan to transform the 18th-century mansion's equestrian facilities, which were built to house racehorses, into a new corporate events and wedding venue.
The funding boost will finance the first stage of the development scheme for the listed 18th- and 19th-century buildings, which also includes the opening of a new garden cafe attached to the Camellia House, which is home to a collection of rare camellias.
The Trust, which bought Wentworth for the nation in 2017, are currently restoring the house, and several rooms are now open to the public for guided tours. Staff and volunteers have now run a tearoom and gift shop and they have opened up areas of the formal gardens and grounds to visitors. They're also licensed to host weddings.
They've drawn up a masterplan to re-open the entire mansion - which has suffered significant structural damage due to damp and leaking roofs - and bring neglected estate buildings back into use over the next 20 years.
Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham, was the ancestral seat of the Earls Fitzwilliam, whose wealth was derived from the coal seams on their land. They left the house after World War Two and rented it out, and sold it in the 1980s when the direct male line became extinct. The village of Wentworth and the estate are still owned by a branch of the family. The house had two private owners before the Trust saved it from an uncertain future.
The Trust's CEO Sarah McLeod said she was delighted by the awarding of the grant.
“The award is fantastic news. It is the breakthrough that enables us to now start delivering on our Masterplan.
“This money will allow us to get started on bringing new life to the redundant buildings on our 83-acre site. Architects can be hired to develop designs and apply for planning permission.”
“Transforming these wonderful but neglected centuries-old spaces will enable us to expand what we offer visitors and the local community. This will bring in additional revenue, securing the future of the house.”
The National Lottery Heritage Fund is also considering a further application from the Trust for a total of £3.3million in funding for the project.
The Camellia House
The Camellia House was built in 1817 as a menagerie, and became home to a collection of camellias imported from Asia. During this period, it was fashionable for aristocratic families to acquire exotic species from newly-explored areas of the world for introduction into their own country house gardens.
For decades, the building deteriorated and the roof eventually collapsed. It was unsafe for staff to enter until this year, when head gardener Scott Jamieson re-discovered the overgrown plants. An expert visited the collection and declared them to be extremely rare, and possibly the oldest surviving camellias in the country. She described the find as being 'like a first edition of Wuthering Heights'.
The camellias will be preserved during the re-development of the building, which will become a daytime cafe and events venue by 2022. It's also expected to attract camellia enthusiasts.
The stables and riding school
The stables and riding school were built in the late 1700s for the Marquess of Rockingham's racehorses. Horse-drawn carriages would travel up the main drive to the West Front of the house to collect the family.
From the late 1940s, the house was rented to a ladies' teacher training college, and the stables were converted into classrooms, laboratories and a gymnasium for the students' use.
The proposals are for the buildings to become a large events space, visitor centre and cafe with capacity for 600 people by 2027.