Creating jobs and supporting communities – Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust is continuing the legacy laid down by centuries of owners. It isn’t only about restoring an important piece of history…
A young apprentice, an Asian artist and a courageous employee living with a genetic condition headed to Downing Street this week to explain how the Trust regenerating Rotherham’s stately home, Wentworth Woodhouse, has changed their lives. They were at a reception at No.11 to launch Changing Lives: Supporting Communities, a report on the economic and social impact being achieved alongside the resurrection of the Grade I listed mansion.
Over 50 guests including the Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nigel Huddleston; Chairman of Historic England, Sir Laurie Magnus; and Wentworth Woodhouse Trustee, the Duke of Devonshire; heard how the Preservation Trust, which now owns the Georgian pile, is continuing the legacy of historic owners by giving opportunities to local people and boosting communities.
Mayor of South Yorkshire and MP of Barnsley Central, Dan Jarvis MBE,, commented at the event: “I’ve been a long-standing supporter of Wentworth Woodhouse – it’s such an iconic, heritage institution. I was really inspired by the work that is going on to restore the house and am keen to support all the progress.” This was echoed by Robert Jenrick MP, also an attendee,: “I’ve followed the project from the off-set and found it so inspiring to see what’s been done and meet the people involved in helping Wentworth Woodhouse fulfil its potential.”
Lucy Nadin, of Thorpe Hesley, spoke of how Charcot Marie Tooth Disease affects the nerves which control her muscles and is now damaging her eyesight. Lucy thought it would be difficult to find an understanding employer but, after being taken on by the Trust at the age of 21 in 2019, she feels like a valued member of ‘an extended family.’ “I’m treated like a human being, not a victim of my condition. I love working at a place that I adore, with people I adore,” Lucy told guests.
Others speaking at Downing Street were Ben Halifax, age 21, of, Heritage Masonry Contracts, who began his stonemasonry apprenticeship during repairs to the mansion’s roofs, and Dominika Rojewska of ArtWorks South Yorkshire, whose artists with learning disabilities and autism are making an impact at the 83-acre site. Zanib Rasool MBE, of The Zanib Collective, explained how the house had opened its chapel to their art installation telling the stories of Pakistani women who came to South Yorkshire to join husbands and fathers working in the steel industry.
The Trust bought the house in 2017 for £7 million after a five-year campaign led by Rotherham businesswoman Dame Julie Kenny DBE DL and SAVE and embarked on a programme of mixed-use regeneration which will take up to two decades to deliver and will cost over £130 million.
CEO Sarah McLeod said: “For centuries the house played a major role in the local economy. In the late 1900s it supported thousands of workers and generated the equivalent of £17 million-a-year in today’s money. Our report demonstrates how, in addition to saving the house, we are continuing that legacy. From March 2017 to March 2021, we outperformed the South Yorkshire Region in social and economic impact by 35% – we created 57 jobs, attracted 71,000 visitors and added £13.5million to the South Yorkshire economy. In that period, 95% of our £7.9 million capital spend went to local companies. But the report also features 12 people and organisations whose lives have been touched by the Trust and it’s their stories which really explain what we stand for – inclusivity, opportunities, encouraging creativity and raising aspirations.”
The event was held at Downing Street to commemorate the Government’s support. In the Autumn Statement of 2016, the Chancellor at that time, Philip Hammond, awarded a £7.6 million grant for critical roof repairs and in the Autumn Statement 2021 a £4.6 million Levelling Up grant was awarded, as part of a Rotherham Bid for the Leisure and Hospitality Sector. Said Sarah McLeod: “Government support has been crucial to us. The 2021 grant will fund the creation of production and training kitchens, which are critical to our hospitality plans and will provide more jobs. What the Trust is achieving in Rotherham is Levelling Up in action.”
2017 to 2021 Achievements:
- The Trust created 57 jobs and local businesses created 68 roles thanks to contracts with Wentworth Woodhouse
- 7,500 young people enjoyed educational sessions
- Wentworth became a popular attraction – 71,000 people visited
- Cultural events range from outdoor theatre and music festivals to art installations
- The Trust signed up over 200 local volunteers, who gave 75,000 hours – worth £1.5 million
- During the pandemic The Trust threw open its gardens, giving green space to 35,000 local visitors
- Volunteers contributed 1,000 hours to enable access to the house and gardens during the pandemic and keep visitors safe