Wentworth Woodhouse is one of the great houses of England and this is an exciting time in its long history – a time of regeneration.
The mansion, its Stables, Riding School and Camellia House are being saved from decline and given a new purpose. Once home to the aristocracy, these spaces are now being made available for everyone to enjoy – whether it’s to visit, work in, or eventually even to stay at. The Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust’s masterplan, Wentworth Woodhouse: A New Life sets out this vision for the future and the 20-year programme of works it entails.
A huge amount of vital repair work has already been done to protect the buildings and their beautiful architectural features. Dry and wet rot, collapsed ceilings and drains, worn stonework, asbestos and poor historic repairs made the task demanding. But by working with the finest architects and craftsmen, and with the guidance and support of Historic England, many years of neglect are being undone. Rainwater no longer pours in through holes in the worst affected areas of historic roofs on the Grade I listed mansion and the Riding School in our Stable Block.
The Trust’s £7.6m Capital works Project is funded by an award made by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement of 2016 which is managed by Historic England. It was split into three contracts tackling the areas of roofs in need of emergency repair. An Urgent Works contract completed in 2019 – specialist contractors Furniss & Sons Ltd worked across all buildings on the site, temporarily covering holes in roofs and cracks in gutters to give short-term protection. The first main contract completed in 2020 – full roof repairs to the mansion’s Bedlam Wing and Chapel, and The Riding School by heritage contractors Aura Conservation Ltd.
The second main contract is nearing completion – it includes full roof repairs to the mansion’s central block and the eastern section of the Long Gallery, undertaken by skilled craftspeople via main contractors Robert Woodhead Ltd.
Construction workers were unable to work on the roof in April 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown, but work re-started at the first opportunity in May, with stringent social distancing and hygiene policies in place. There has been little delay in timings.
Over the coming weeks, the enormous scaffolding which completely masks the mansion’s glorious 606 -feet long East Front façade, will come down. It has been in place for over a year to enable the roof repairs to be carried out safely. The scaffolding took two months to plan and was installed by up to ten technicians per day over a three-month period. It enabled a specialist conservation team from Woodhead Group to repair 1,486m2 of the roof above the mansion’s central block of State Rooms and the Long Gallery. The area is roughly the size of six tennis courts.
Cracked and broken slates had allowed water to seep into the rooms below – the Marble Saloon, the Van Dyck and Whistlejacket state rooms, the oldest section of the Long Gallery dating back to the 1600s and the principal staircase.
In these, the most important areas of the house, plaster was cracking and peeling.
The roof repairs have now prevented further damage to these important features and initial holding repairs to the ceiling and cornice in the Marble saloon have been carried out. Repair and restoration of centuries-old stonework, including elegant hand-crafted statues, urns, balustrades and chimneys, has also been achieved.
Wentworth Woodhouse is arguably the greatest and most challenging restoration project for a generation. We hope you will continue to follow and support us on this exciting journey.
The Preservation Trust has begun the project planning stage of work to honour the pledge in its Masterplan to bring new life to redundant buildings on the 83-acre site.
The first to be transformed will be the Camellia House followed by the Ostler’s House, Stables South Range and Riding School. Transforming these wonderful but neglected centuries-old spaces will enable the Trust to expand attractions and facilities for visitors and the local community, bringing in additional revenue to further secure the future of the house.
NEW CAR PARKS
Visitors to Wentworth Woodhouse will be happy to hear that a new car park is in the pipeline.
Subject to local authority planning permission being awarded, it will take the place of the dilapidated Lady Mabel College swimming pool near the Cortworth Lane entrance, which is due to be demolished next year. Designs are currently being worked on. If the plan is successful, the car park should be ready by 2022, ahead of the launch of the Camellia House cafe. In addition, more plans to consider a total of six other on-site locations for car parks went out for public consultation last year.
The Trust will soon be able to share details of the scheme, and the public feedback, with Rotherham Borough Council’s planning department. The current car park, under the trees below the East Front lawns, will remain in use for now.