Initially, when new of the pandemic hit and lockdown followed, like everyone we were shocked and imagined the worst. But actually, we were able to find silver linings during the months that followed. Everyone rushed to help, and that was so heartening. It came from volunteers, who decided to create a stream of morale-boosting videos about life at the house, right through to the funders who acted immediately to support the devastated heritage sector.
The swift arrival of £240,000 from an emergency pot, granted by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, gave the Trust three months of vital breathing space. It kept the wolf from the door, paying running costs from April to June. We paid the bills, took stock and rethought the business plan to find a way forward. A core team was brought back and a digital audit of the site was carried out, utilising some of the grant. For WWPT, having no daily operational duties to carry out meant there was time to apply for more grants and work out new directions.
*picture from March 2019
OUR ROOF REPAIRS GOT UNDERWAY AGAIN
Contractors Woodhead Group were also finding solutions; they managed to establish safe methods of working. By May, roofers and stonemasons were back at the house. Two acres of the mansion’s roofs have been repaired, keeping rooms below safe and the East Front is almost free of scaffold.
THE GARDENS CAME TO OUR RESCUE
A COVID-safe means of generating income was literally sitting on OUR doorstep. The mansion’s 55-acre garden was to become our salvation. By summer, our woodland copses, wildflower meadows and rambling lawns – once beautified by famed Georgian landscape gardener Sir Humphry Repton – had been thrown open to paying visitors for the first time.
The mansion has been open for just a few weeks over the summer holidays, but the gardens have been open for much of the year and will continue to open every weekend, bringing in much-needed income for the Trust while giving people a beautiful, relaxing place to exercise.
Developing the gardens so they could be used for visitors was planned for the future, but the virus forced those plans to the fore and a Culture Recovery Fund grant via the National Lottery Heritage Fund helped immeasurably.
The grant, an award of £468,282 to help the house survive in the run up to winter, paid for many things, including a mobile food trailer so we could serve refreshments in the gardens, and a mobile classroom and two shepherd’s huts, which are on order and will be ready to use next year.
10,000 OF YOU FLEW WITH OUR FLOCK, RECORDING MEMORIES OF SPRING LOCKDOWN
One of our greatest achievements of 2020 was involving thousands of local people in the creation of The Flock, a stunning outdoor art installation to mark the effects of COVID-19 on the community. The installation saw 10,000 small wooden birds, little symbols of freedom through unity, distributed to local schoolchildren, families, businesses, charities and organisations to hand-paint with their thoughts on the pandemic. It brought so many people together, for one aim, and the messages on the birds ranged from the comical to the poignant, the positive to the sad.
Just as its creators, artists Julie Edwards and Ron Thompson from Planet Art, had hoped, The Flock was a true reflection of our feelings, hopes and thoughts at an unprecedented time in our lives.
Our volunteers were invaluable throughout – they helped us to distribute and collect the birds, then ensure every single one was hand-varnished before it was ‘planted’ into place on the mansion’s East Front lawns.
The overwhelming response from you, the public, was truly inspiring, though. Not only did you create those birds, thousands more flocked to view them.
Watch out for news of how The Flock’s birds will be helping us fundraise to support the house in 2021.
WE EMBRACED THE WORLD OF DIGITAL
Thanks to the grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the team was able to get cracking on long-held digital plans which had become very relevant in COVID times.
During 2020 we launched an online fundraising shop, so supporters can click and buy everything from photographs of the house to an original slate from the roof and framed prints of the mansion by famed Sheffield artist Joe Scarbrough.
We are also making our own mini movies. Equipment to kit out a mobile film studio equipment has been purchased and a volunteer video production team is now in training. Informative films about life behind the scenes will eventually be shown on TV screens in the mansion’s cafe and reception – and on Wentworth’s own YouTube channel, which will launch later in 2021.
We are also excited to announce that we will soon be piloting Wentworth Reimagined, a series of interactive digital experiences for visitors as they walk through the mansion’s rooms.
Made possible by a £40,000 from grant from Art Fund, the UK’s national charity for art, it will bring some of Wentworth’s above and below stairs characters back to life.
MORE REPAIR WORK IS HAPPENING
In November, a further £720,000 was awarded by Historic England from a Heritage Stimulus Fund set aside to restart heritage construction and maintenance projects hit by the pandemic and save jobs in the sector.
It is paying for vital roof work at each end of the famed East Front – on the North Pavilion, North and South Quadrants – and the Meter House and a further section of the Long Gallery. This will protect rooms below, contribute to the building’s sustainability and support jobs in construction and traditional crafts.
WE FINALLY GOT THE HOUSE WARMED UP!
In October, thanks to a grant from Historic England, £331,200 was awarded from the Heritage Stimulus Fund, part of the Government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage.
The Trust was able to install a temporary heating system and forge ahead with enabling works which will allow it to introduce a ground-source heat pump system in the future.
These works include urgent repairs to underground drainage, a new water mains connection and the removal of asbestos from the mansion’s cellar.
Wentworth Woodhouse Wentworth Rotherham South Yorkshire S62 7TQ
Directions by Road
The driveway is on Cortworth Lane, directly opposite the end of Clayfield Lane.