Celebrations were thrown at Wentworth Woodhouse recently for our very own Julie Kenny DBE, who was bestowed with the title Dame Commander of the British Empire, the second-highest honour in the land, at an investiture ceremony conducted by Princess Anne in October.
The honour was recognition for her crucial role in securing the future of our Grade I listed Georgian stately home.
Julie launched the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust and led a relentless five-year campaign which enabled the trust to purchase the mansion, its stables, riding school, camellia house and 83 acres in March 2017 for £7million following a campaign backed by SAVE British Heritage.
Julie said: “I was thrilled and humbled to receive this honour at the Palace – it was my second visit there, having received my CBE in 2002 from Prince Charles.
“But equally special for me was celebrating back at Wentworth Woodhouse with everyone. The party couldn’t have been anywhere better. The first time I saw the house I fell in love with it and when I knew that its future was in such dire straits, I was determined to do all in my power to ensure its future for Rotherham and the nation.”
Julie’s damehood was announced in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this summer.
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire rewards public service and contributions to the arts, sciences, charities and welfare organisations.
She described rescuing the house from decline as one of the most inspiring, yet hardest, challenges of her life.
When WWPT finally moved in, they were met with a critical state of decay at the house which was once grander than Chatsworth and hosted kings and queens. There were buildings riddled with asbestos, collapsed drains, endemic dry rot, leaking roofs and rotting timbers.
With just one phone line, a handful of committed staff and a single vacuum cleaner, it began the task of raising the phoenix from the ashes.
With funding from the National Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Architectural Heritage Fund, WWPT now has 23 staff, over 100 volunteers and generates income from events, retail, catering, weddings, film and TV productions.