What a year. 2020 was set to be a big turning point for the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust.
We were three years into our mission to regenerate the Grade I listed mansion, its buildings and gardens. In March, visitors were flocking and an annual programme of events was in full-swing. The colossal programme of crucial repairs to two acres of the mansion’s roof was soon to come to an end, protecting some of the most vulnerable areas of the building.
And then came the COVID-19 pandemic, and lockdown, followed by Tier 3 restrictions for South Yorkshire.
Tours and events were cancelled. The mansion’s doors were bolted. Construction work came to an abrupt halt.
Almost all of our staff went immediately into furlough, income dropped like a stone and the business plan became redundant. The future looked bleak.
But Wentworth Woodhouse has survived much during its 250-year history – and as 2020 draws to a close, we can confidently say that this majestic house has weathered the storm and is set to rise again. Throughout the pandemic, we have worked incredibly hard to bring in vital grants to help our survival. As a result, many positive things have happened here during the pandemic – some which may not have been on the agenda for years.
Right the way through, our priorities have been trying to keep people safe, boost morale, retain jobs and keep the project moving. We have achieved all of that, and more…
Our gardens are now open for the public to enjoy and are a thriving source of income. The house is now warm for the first time since the heating system broke down in January. Asbestos has been removed from the cellars. The roof repairs have been very successfully carried out, the beautiful East Front of the mansion is now virtually free of scaffold after two years – and we’ve even been able to start work on new areas of the building which were in jeopardy.
Through careful control, the ship has been steadied. The Trust will be no worse off financially by the end of the financial year, three new jobs have been created and a COVID-19-proof business model has been set out for 2021.
We are one year behind where we had planned in terms of sustainability. But what is one more year in the life of this house? We hope to hit the ground running when we come back next year and ensure that you find an even better Wentworth Woodhouse waiting for you when we can re-open in the spring.
Thank for your loyalty, love and support. Please continue to come to our gardens – they remain open for you every weekend. We can’t wait to welcome you back in 2021.