The Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust have released new details about the progress they have achieved in their second year of ownership of the stately home.
The charity bought 83 acres of grounds, the main house and several other buildings in 2017 after the ancestral home of the Earls of Fitzwilliam, near Rotherham, had begun to fall into decay.
Chair of trustees Dame Julie Kenny has now revealed the 'astonishing' increases in visitor numbers, staffing levels and grant funding in 2019.
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Their eventual ambition is to restore the house, address a huge backlog of repairs and open it fully to the public, while becoming a leading wedding and events venue. Currently, restricted areas of the house and gardens can be visited on pre-booked tours.
And 'huge strides' towards this goal were made during 2019, a year in which the East Front of the Grade I-listed Georgian house spent several months encased in scaffolding while specialist contractors undertook urgent roof repairs.
Time stood still for 'decades' at Wentworth Woodhouse - it was leased to a ladies' PE college after World War Two with the remaining Fitzwilliams relegated to an apartment inside, and they sold the house in 1989, although a branch of the family still own the estate land, farms and village. It came onto the market again in 2015, when its last owner died.
Yet the pace of change since the trust took over has seen its decline dramatically reversed.
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In 2017, the house had just one phone line and a handful of staff. The payroll has now grown to 52 - in 2019 alone, 33 new jobs were created for tour guides, and operations manager, catering staff, front-of-house and booking assistants.
The volunteer roster has grown to 211 and the collectively gave 22,300 hours of their time to the house last year.
There were over 20,000 visitors in 2019, and £45,000 was raised in public donations towards an appeal to fund the roofing work.
Eight weddings were held for 1,700 guests.
Fibre broadband was installed in 2019, which has enabled a new security system to be fitted and for Wifi to be extended to the cafe.
“When we look back on what has been achieved in what is only our second year as custodians of Wentworth Woodhouse, it is with pride and astonishment," said Dame Julie Kenny.
“We are expanding rapidly in the activities we are delivering, the numbers visiting us and the new jobs we are creating. It is a very exciting time and this progress has been made thanks to our small, dedicated team who respond to ever-changing challenges on a daily basis. The commitment they show is truly remarkable.”
The last financial year has seen the trust's coffers boosted by £1.825million in government heritage grants.
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Trust CEO Sarah McLeod added:-
“Working at Wentworth Woodhouse is not easy. The expectations on the team are great and it is true to say we laugh, we cry and at times feel somewhat overwhelmed with the enormity of the challenge.
“But we all see this as our own personal challenge and love coming to work.”
What's next in 2020?
In 2020, a range of repair projects will be completed. Slates will be returned to the Long Gallery roof and stonework on the chimneys will begin. Repairs to the urns that stood on plinths on the roof will also finish, as will roof work over the staterooms.
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The trust have also announced plans for the Grade I-listed Camellia House - where a number of rare 200-year-old camellia plants were discovered last year after being forgotten about for decades - to become a cafe, events venue and visitor space. The riding school building will also be transformed into an events venue.