Imagine walking through the corridors of Wentworth Woodhouse, and hearing the whispers of the backstairs maids, or catching a fleeting glimpse of characters from centuries-past…
Soon such imaginings will become a reality – in the virtual sense – as the Grade I listed mansion develops an immersive visitor experience bringing history to life.
A pilot project, Wentworth Reimagined could be drawing greater numbers of family visitors to the house by next summer, and is being made possible thanks to a Respond and Reimagine Grant from Art Fund, the UK’s national charity for art.
Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust has been awarded £40,000 from the charity’s pot designed to help museums, galleries and cultural organisations hit by the Covid-19 pandemic adapt and reimagine new ways of future working.
“We are incredibly grateful to Art Fund for this generous sum. Launching Wentworth Woodhouse Re-imagined will bring our beautiful but empty rooms to life and appeal directly to family visitors,” said WWPT’s visitor operations manager Jen Booth.
“We will be inviting visitors to step back in time. As they walk through the mansion they will be immersed in a fun and fascinating experience and hear the hustle and bustle of below stairs, statues gossiping and even fireplaces singing.”
Wentworth Reimagined will use the latest technology to tell some of the untold tales from the house’s rich and varied history.
A series of short, story–led films will be projected along the visitor journey and seasonal character-led activity days will be created. It may/will be developed into an online experience for people wanting to learn about the house during temporarily closures brought about by the pandemic.
The grant will be spent on audio and visual equipment to bring the stories to life.
Local community artists Becky Newbould and Gemma Whelan, of WE Great Ladies, have been commissioned to research, write and direct the films and audio recordings.
The women are working alongside the Trust’s Volunteer Research Team to identify fascinating stories of people who lived above and below stairs over the centuries.
The team is led by research volunteer co-ordinator Helen Jones and house archivist David Allott and features well-known Rotherham historians Melvyn and Joan Jones.