The re­vival starts for Went­worth Wood­house

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

want to cre­ate con­fi­dence in the area. It’s about time South York­shire stuck a flag in the air and said ‘come and see us’.”

Went­worth Wood­house was built as the re­sult of a fam­ily feud. In 1695, Wil­liam Went­worth, 2nd Earl of Straf­ford, left the Went­worth estate to his nephew Thomas Watson, and his ti­tles to his nat­u­ral de­scen­dant Thomas Went­worth. The two men set about try­ing to outdo one an­other: Thomas Went­worth built Went­worth Cas­tle, seven miles away, while Thomas Watson con­structed the two houses that now make up Went­worth Wood­house. The first, a Baroque-style man­sion, faces west; the grander Pal­la­dian “ex­ten­sion” faces east.

The 20th cen­tury was not kind to Went­worth Wood­house. On De­cem­ber 31 1931, the Fitzwilliams, who then owned the house, held a fab­u­lous party for 40,000 guests. A world war later, this lav­ish lifestyle came to an abrupt end, when in April 1946, heavy plant ma­chin­ery rolled up to the house ready to turn the grounds into the largest open cast mine in Bri­tain. Labour min­is­ter Manny Shin­well gave in­struc­tions that the min­ing should take place right up to the “bloody front door”. Inside, Peter Fitzwilliam stood at a win­dow and watched the hor­ror un­fold.

Two years later, Fitzwilliam died in a freak ac­ci­dent, and two fur­ther gen­er­a­tions of the fam­ily strug­gled to keep the house in good or­der. Since 1989, Went­worth Wood­house has been sold three times, most re­cently to the preser­va­tion trust for £7mil­lion. In Novem­ber 2016, Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond promised £7.6mil­lion to­wards its restora­tion. The to-do list is vast – evict­ing the bats from the sta­bles, clear­ing the drains, and mak­ing the cel­lars safe – but McLeod warns that her ini­tial pri­or­i­ties might not fit with public ap­proval. “We’ve got to raise sub­stan­tial amounts of money to carry out the work, so it makes sense that we should pri­ori­tise the parts of the site that gen­er­ate the most in­come first.”

It is un­likely that the house will be re­stored first, but in­stead it will be the camel­lia house and the sta­bles.

As the team have re­moved the roof slates, to as­sess which can be re­cy­cled, they have dis­cov­ered graf­fiti drawn by estate work­ers mark­ing their ter­ri­tory, dat­ing back to 1820.

Now, the public will be able to add to this. As part of its new fundrais­ing cam- paign, launched yes­ter­day, peo­ple can write a mes­sage on a slate for £50, which will then go on the new roof above the state rooms.

McLeod is keen for the lo­cal com­mu­nity to join in, “so they can say what the house means to them”.

There are many myths about Went­worth Wood­house – not least that the house has five miles of cor­ri­dors: that, says McLeod, is “sim­ply non­sense”. An­other ru­mour is that Went­worth has 365 rooms, one for each day of the year. “What qual­i­fies as a room? There are cup­boards big­ger than the ground floor of my house.” At one time, 1,000 staff were em­ployed to work in the house and on the estate. “There were two peo­ple who just lit the can­dles,” McLeod adds.

She doesn’t mind if peo­ple de­scribe Went­worth as the “most fa­mous house you’ve never heard of ”.

“We need to use it to our ad­van­tage,” she says. “It’s a great op­por­tu­nity – it’s some­where that peo­ple have never heard of, and never seen. That’s one of its great mys­ter­ies.”

Went­worth Wood­house was built dur­ing a fam­ily ri­valry

East front of the house by R Blas­son (1790), above; old graf­fiti, right

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.