Press release: Chancellor’s support will transform magnificent stately home into new Northern Powerhouse

The east front of Wentworth Woodhouse. Picture: Country Life

23 November 2016

Press release: Chancellor’s support will transform magnificent stately home into new Northern Powerhouse

The Chancellor’s offer of a start up grant of £7.6m for Wentworth Woodhouse opens the way for the most ambitious and exciting stately home rescue in decades. 

It will provide jobs, stimulate the local economy, and open one of England’s most important and grandest historic houses to the public on a regular basis.  The former service wing will host a huge range of events and the stables will become home to dynamic small businesses. Within the beautiful 18th century house and outbuildings more than a dozen apartments and cottages will be restored for residential use and as lets for holiday makers. The National Trust will give crucial support to the first three years of opening, including secondment of staff. 

Wentworth Woodhouse has been a cause célèbre since open cast coalmining began in 1946 in both the park and gardens in front of the mansion, making it impossible for the Fitzwilliam family to continue living there.

The magnificent house has survived thanks to the efforts of two public owners and two private owners but in each case has proved an impossible drain on resources.  It has also always been too large for the National Trust to take on alone.

SAVE initiated the formation of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, chaired by leading local business woman Julie Kenny.  SAVE and the Trust raised £7m in pledges towards the £7m purchase price agreed with the owners the Newbold family.  However to take on such a vast house, needing some £42million in repairs over 12-15 years, WWPT desperately needed the start-up funds the Chancellor has now provided.

SAVE and WWPT offer special thanks to Robert Jenrick MP and local MP John Healey who secured a special meeting with the Chancellor in the House of Commons to make the case for funds, attended by Julie Kenny.

Marcus Binney Executive President of SAVE says: “This is the most time-consuming and complex rescue operation SAVE has ever mounted. We hope WWPT can now move towards exchange of contracts and purchase in the New Year.  We extend thanks to the Newbold family and will honour the pioneer work of their father Clifford Newbold in opening the mansion and gardens to parties of visitors who have come away enthralled and entranced by the beauty of the place.

“The Chancellor was absolutely correct when he said there were seven days to save the house, as three of our key grants towards the purchase were due to expire on 30 November having already been generously extended several times.”

Julie Kenny, Chair of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, says: “The SAVE/WWPT scheme has been developed with the help of a large professional team, many providing their advice and help in a pro-bono basis.  It relies on not one but a combination of four tried and tested solutions each of which can provide a regular income stream to cover running and maintenance costs on a long term basis.  These are ticket sales and revenue, catering and events, holiday lets and business lets.”

Wentworth Woodhouse is a Grade I listed country house in South Yorkshire, with the longest façade of any country house in England. It stands in 83 acres of gardens and grounds and has extensive views over former parkland including a deer park and lakes which are vested in the Fitzwilliam Wentworth Amenity Trust.

Wentworth Woodhouse was built for the 1st Marquess of Rockingham from c.1735, the work continuing over four decades, and then passed to the Fitzwilliam family. During World War II the mansion was taken over for use by Military Intelligence and after 1945 the onset of open cast coalmining in the garden and park made it impossible for the family to return. The greater part of the house was let in 1947 to West Riding County Council, on a long lease, shortly before the death of the 8th Earl Fitzwilliam in a plane crash in 1948. The house was used as a Training College for PT teachers.

Following local government reorganisation in 1974 Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council became the lessee and the property was taken over as a student campus for Sheffield Polytechnic College (now Sheffield Hallam University).  Faced with mounting costs Rotherham paid to surrender the lease in 1988.  The house and 83 acres of grounds and parkland were sold to Mr. W.G. Haydon-Baillie in 1989. In 1995 Haydon-Baillie charged the property to Bank Julius Baer (BJB) which took possession in 1998.

The property was bought by the Newbold family in 1999 who continue in residence.

Note to editors:

1. SAVE was founded in 1975 following the famous exhibition the Destruction of the Country house at the V&A in 1974. SAVE has played a leading role in numerous country house rescue campaigns notably Calke Abbey in Derbyshire, saved by the National Trust with the help of a £4m grant announced by Chancellor Nigel Lawson in his budget speech of April 1984. Others have been Tyntesfield House in Somerset acquired by the National Trust, and Dumfries House in Ayrshire where SAVE launched an appeal for £25m; the appeal had secured £18m in pledges when HRH The Prince of Wales intervened to acquire the house making it the most successful ever stately home regeneration project in an economically depressed area. 

2. The £7m pledge secured by February 2016 consisted of grant offers from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Monument Trust, the Art Fund, Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement and the John Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust. Pledges and donations have also been received from many individual members of the public. SAVE and the trustees of the WWPT extend their warmest thanks for all pledges and support received.

3. The trustees ofWWPT are: The Duke of Devonshire, Lady Juliet Tadgell, Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland, Julie Kenny (Chair), Timothy Cooke, Martin Drury, and Merlin Waterson. 

4. SAVE extends special thanks to longstanding supporters Kit Martin and Roger Tempest for their huge input into the project.

5.For more information please contact Marcus Binney or Mike Fox at SAVE on 0207 253 3500 or, or Julie Kenny, Chair of WWPT, on 01909 561871


Press release issued by SAVE Britain’s Heritage

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