Michael Ford asks
What fate awaits Wentworth
of the great houses of England is up for sale (April 1999). It
may not be in the public eye like Blenheim or
Castle Howard but Wentworth Woodhouse, near
Rotherham in South Yorkshire, is equally
The house, built in the second quarter of the
18th century, is basically two houses
joined back to back: with the approach from the
East showing a Palladian front over 600ft in
length, the longest in the country, whilst the
West front is Baroque. The whole has 365 rooms
with 1000 windows. The stable block can
accommodate 100 horses. This is truly a palatial
Wentworth Woodhouse was built for Thomas
Wentworth, who became the first Marquis of
Rockingham, as an architectural challenge to
Wentworth Castle six miles away, near Barnsley.
The house passed to the 4th Earl
Fitzwilliam who embellished the building
cumulating in the best Georgian interior in
England centring on the magnificent great hall.
Its surrounding park was also a gem until
open-cast coal mining devastated it in the 1940s.
The tragedy of Wentworth Woodhouse is that it
was never opened to the public after the Second
World War as were most of the stately homes. The
8th Earl Fitzwilliam was killed in a
flying accident in 1948 with no direct heir and
this led to the sale of the contents and a split
in the ownership. From 1950 a major part of the
house was let to various councils as a training
college with the Fitzwilliams still occupying the
remainder until 1979 when the 10th and
last Earl died. Sheffield Polytechnic surrendered
their lease in 1986 because of local cutbacks. It
was bought in 1988 with a view to restoration as
a country house but the Julius Baer Bank took
possession in 1998. It has now been offered for
sale at a price around £1.5 million but it will
require ten times that to restore. The need now
is for this architectural masterpiece to be
saved, hopefully with the aim of eventually
giving access to the general public, and making
it once again a stately home.
In Early May 1999, Wentworth Woodhouse was purchased for a figure substantially in excess of the guide of £1.5m. It is to become a private residence once more.
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