Originally built for the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham’s race horses in the late 1700s, the southern range of the Stables and the Riding School could be hosting large wedding parties and corporate events for up to 600 people by 2027.
Architects are being commissioned to plan the development. This initial stage of work is being financed by a grant of £1.5million in initial support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Building work on this £20million project is not expected to start until 2023, to allow WWPT to raise the huge sum needed.
To protect the buildings in the interim, asbestos has been removed to enable access, the Riding School roof has been replaced and urgent repairs carried out to the Stables Southern Range, with temporary internal props installed to support the decayed roof timbers.
As the Trust’s plans develop and fundraising campaigns start, public consultations will be held to give local people opportunities to get involved and suggest what activities and events they would like the spaces to host. This will help the Trust to progress funding applications including to the National Lottery.
The Riding School is where horses would have been trained in equestrian showmanship, so they could be used in shows to entertain guests.
The Marquess’s most famous horse, Whistlejacket, could possibly have been exercised at the school, but he would have been way past his prime – work started on the school in 1766, four years after George Stubbs painted Whistlejacket’s famous portrait.
The adjoining stables housed 84 carriage and riding horses with grooms living in rooms above, and the family knew how to look after their horses. In the 1920s, more money was spent on the upkeep of the stables than on the mansion house!
In the 1950s, the Riding School became the gymnasium for students at the Lady Mabel College of Physical Education – and consequently, construction specialists found the building in much better condition than the mansion’s Bedlam Wing.
The Riding School is now a water-tight shell, which is drying out well.