WENTWORTH WOODHOUSE ROTHERHAM
‘The interiors of Wentworth Woodhouse are of quite exceptional value. They represent, with few exceptions, the style of no more than one generation, but they represent it in a variety of different shades, from the Viennese or Venetian gaiety of the West Entrance Hall, to the Palladian purity of the grand saloon’ (Pevsner)
Wentworth Woodhouse is without doubt, one of the finest and grandest Georgian houses in England and at 606 ft, is famously considered to have the longest facade.
Wentworth was built principally for Thomas Wentworth, later Marquess of Rockingham and comprises the unusual combination of two back-to-back houses, which began with the West Front from 1724-28, followed by the East Front from 1731-50. Its list of architects includes, Ralph Tunnicliffe, Henry Flitcroft and John Carr; the West Front is built of brick in the English Baroque style, whilst the East, is in sandstone and is a classical, Palladian masterpiece.
The Rockingham’s were one of the greatest Whig dynasties of the 18th Century and Wentworth Woodhouse, was a centre of great political influence. Charles, the 2nd Marquess was Prime Minister in 1765-66 and again in 1782. On his death the estate passed to the Earls Fitzwilliam, who remained in ownership until the late 20th Century.
Following the death of the 8th Earl Fitzwilliam in a flying accident in 1948, a greater part of the house was vacated and in 1950, it was let to the West Riding County Council, who made use of it until 1986, first as a teacher training college and then as part of Sheffield City Polytechnic. The house and its 87 acres of grounds, were sold to a private purchaser in 1988, again in 1999 to the Newbold family and then in April 2017, to the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust.
The interiors at Wentworth are some of the finest of the Georgian era and span the whole of the 18th Century. They are the work of three patrons – the First and Second Marquess of Rockingham and the Fourth Earl Fitzwilliam and have been described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as being ‘…of exceptional value. A suite like that along the East Front from the Whistlejacket Room to the library is not easily matched, anywhere in England.’
The majority of the state rooms are laid out across the ground and first floors of the Palladian east wing and retain much of their fine architectural fittings. Rooms of note include the magnificent pillared hall, which gives access to the domestic spaces of the ship room, low dining room, and painted drawing room. The chapel was completed in 1734, to a design by Henry Flitcroft but includes some earlier woodwork.
The principal floor is reached via Carr’s cantilevered staircase, which opens into the Marble Saloon, once dubbed the finest Georgian room in England. It is a 60 ft square hall, 40ft high with a pillared gallery surround and ceiling plasterwork by Jonathan and Joseph Rose.
There are suites of state rooms to the north and south of the marble saloon, these include the ante drawing room, Van Dyke room, Whistlejacket room, libraries, state dining room and statuary room.
The West Front contains the oldest elements of the house. On the first floor were the principal family apartments of particular note is the Long Gallery.
The Second Marquess of Rockingham commissioned John Carr to build the Palladian Stables and Riding School, with work beginning in 1766. Built on an extremely grand scale, the stables are fashioned in Ashlar and dressed golden sandstone.
He had a clear passion for horses and racing and at one time kept 84 racehorses at Wentworth. The stables remained relatively unaltered until the early 20th Century, when they were taken over by the army during WWII and later greatly altered, with the arrival of a training college. In the late 1940s they were converted to form various classrooms, the riding school became a gymnasium and various single storey infill extensions were added.
To the south of the stables, is the late 18th Century Riding School. The interior however, is well preserved with the exceptions of the 20th Century ceiling and floor.
The parks at Wentworth Woodhouse were originally laid out by Humphrey Repton and he described it as one of his most ambitious projects. The house would once have sat within vast pleasure gardens, much of which have unfortunately long disappeared, although a programme of restoration has begun. Areas which were previously destroyed by surface mining, in the middle of the 20th Century, are in the process of being redefined and planted.
Monuments remaining within the grounds include, The Punch Bowl – a 15 ft. high decorative urn dating from 1837, an 18th Century Ionic temple and the magnificent Camellia house. Also of particular note, is the massive South Terrace,with a 1500 ft. long retaining wall, built for the 1st Marquess of Rockingham.
In the wider parkland and visible from the house, are further important 18th and 19th century monuments including, the Rockingham Monument, Hoober Stand, Keppel’s Column and Needle’s Eye.