Yorkshire first as National Trust partner with Wentworth Woodhouse

IT'S future was put in safe hands when it was sold for £7m back in March, but now the protectors of Wentworth Woodhouse are to work with the gatekeepers of English conservation, the National Trust, in the first partnership of its kind in Yorkshire.

Chairman of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust Sarah McLeod at the historic Grade 1 listed house, near Rotherham. Picture Scott Merrylees

Wentworth Woodhouse, with its 600-ft facade, was built just outside of Rotherham by The First Marquess of Rockingham between 1725 and 1750.

Said to have been the inspiration for Jane Austen’s Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice, it was the largest privately owned house in England until it was sold to the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT) earlier this year.

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It has planned a multi-million pound renovation of the Grade I listed house, and now will get invaluable support thanks to a partnership with National Trust.

Picture Scott Merrylees

WWPT bought the house, its outstanding collection of classical statuary and the surrounding grounds of 83 acres, for a total of £7m in March of this year.

The two trusts will work closely together on operational aspects of opening and managing the house, to enable the general public to visit and enjoy the historic attraction.

National Trust Director in the North said: “The Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust have saved an incredibly important house. We’re pleased to be able to work in partnership with their team to open the house and grounds to the public so that everyone can enjoy it.”

The partnership at Wentworth Woodhouse includes financial support over three years and operational support over six years, with the National Trust advising on areas such as presentation, visitor services, opening hours, visitor experience, volunteer management and marketing.

Picture Scott Merrylees

Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust chief executive Sarah McLeod said: “We’re excited to invite the general public into this incredible property to enjoy the many exciting features.

“Support, advice and expertise from the National Trust is invaluable and will ensure we are equipped to make Wentworth Woodhouse a fantastic experience for everyone.”

Every year the National Trust, Europe’s largest conservation charity, opens over 350 houses, gardens, landscapes and other buildings to the public.

Mrs McLeod said the Trust, which has a small handful of staff, have three main challenges - to operate immediately as a business; to develop a vision for what they are going to do, and to manage the major capital works project that is the renovation of the house.

“That is where the partnership is so critical,” she said. “It will give us staff, help to manage the 200 people who want to volunteer with us, and also the knowledge and expertise to guide is. It means I can pick up a phone to them and say, ‘I have a problem here, can you help us?’ It’s the best possible deal for us.”

Wentworth Woodhouse is already open for guided tours, and Mr Bowell said he hoped National Trust members would help to support it by visiting soon.

Mr Bowell added: “We are very happy to play a small part in ensuring the future success of this magnificent building, helping to open it and give access to visitors.

“The support we are giving is for a fixed period but it also means that National Trust members will be able to visit the house at a discounted rate.”

All tours are to be booked via www.wentworthwoodhouse.co.uk

Wentworth Woodhouse is actually comprised of two houses of totally different architectural styles.

The west front of the house was built in the baroque style, and the east front in the later palladian style.

The sale of the house followed a five-year campaign. Back in 2013, the repair bill was estimated at £43m, and now the sale is completed the Trust plans to make a public appeal to help raise money towards the costs.

The house will remain open throughout the capital works, and Mrs McLeod said she wanted the works to be accessible to the public.

She said: “We want people to be able to see the work as we’re doing it, not just a select few staterooms, but get up on the roof and see what’s happening. Every time people come to visit, they will see something different.”