From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Wentworth Woodhouse

53° 28′ 27″ N 1° 24′ 17″ W

  • History
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Wentworth Woodhouse is a Grade I listed country house in the village of Wentworth, Yorkshire, and is currently owned by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust.

The original Jacobean house was rebuilt by Thomas Watson-Wentworth, 1st Marquess of Rockingham. It vastly expanded by his son, the 2nd Marquess, who was twice Prime Minister and established Wentworth Woodhouse as a Whig centre of influence. In the 18th century, the house was inherited by the Earls Fitzwilliam who owned it until 1979, when it passed to the heirs of the 8th and 10th Earls, its value having appreciated from the large quantities of coal discovered on the estate.

The building comprises of two joined houses, forming west and east fronts. The original house, now the west front, with the garden range facing northwest towards the village, was built of brick with stone details. The east front of unsurpassed length is credibly said to have been built as the result of a rivalry with the Stainborough branch of the Wentworth family, which inherited Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford's minor title of Baron Raby. The Stainborough Wentworths, for whom the Strafford earldom was revived, lived at nearby Wentworth Castle, which was purchased in 1708 in a competitive spirit and strenuously rebuilt in a magnificent manner.

The grounds and surrounding area, contain a number of follies, many with associations in the arena of 18th-century Whig politics. A tapering pyramid with a hexagonal lantern, called Hoober Stand was named for the ancient wood in which it was erected. It is 30 m high and was built to Flitcroft's design in 1747–48 to commemorate the defeat of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, in which Lord Malton and his surviving son took part, was rewarded with the Lord Lieutenancy of Yorkshire and the title Marquess of Rockingham.

During the Second World War the house acted as a Training Depot and Headquarters of the Intelligence Corps, although by 1945 conditions for trainee intelligence soldiers had deteriorated to such a state that questions were asked in the House of Commons. Some of the training involved motorcycle dispatch rider skills, as Intelligence Corps personnel often used motorcycles. The grounds of the house and surrounding road network were used as motorcycle training areas.

The Ministry of Health attempted to requisition the house as housing for homeless industrial families. To prevent this, the Earl attempted to donate the house to the National Trust, but the Trust declined to take it. In the end, Lady Mabel Fitzwilliam, sister of the 7th Earl and a local alderman, brokered a deal whereby the West Riding County Council leased most of the house for an educational establishment, leaving forty rooms as a family apartment. Thus, from 1949 to 1979, the house was home to the Lady Mabel College of Physical Education, which trained female physical education teachers. The college later merged with Sheffield City Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University), which eventually gave up the lease in 1988 as a result of high maintenance costs.

In 1989, the hall was in a poor state of repair. As the polytechnic was no longer a tenant and with the family no longer requiring the house, the family trustees decided to sell it and the 70 acres surrounding it, but retained the Wentworth Estate's 15,000 acres (61 km2) of land. The house was bought by locally born businessman Wensley Grosvenor Haydon-Baillie, who started a programme of restoration, but due to a business failure, it repossessed by a Swiss bank and put back on the market in 1998. Clifford Newbold, an architect from Highgate, bought it for something over £1.5 million. Newbold progressed with a programme of renovation and restoration and the surrounding parkland is owned by the Wentworth Estates.

In 2014, the house was informally offered for sale by Newbold, with no price specified, but a figure of around £7 million was thought to be sought according to The Times. The house was reported to need works of around £40 million. Following Newbold's death, the house was advertised for sale in May 2015 via Savills with an asking price of £8 million. In February 2016, it was sold to the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust for £7 million after a potential sale to the Hong Kong-based Lake House Group fell through.

On 23 November 2016, in the United Kingdom Chancellor's budget statement of November 2016, it was announced that the Trust was to receive a grant of £7.6 million for restoration work.