The Chancellor has announced a surprise £7.6 million government grant to save Wentworth Woodhouse in the Autumn Statement - with just seven days to spare.
Philip Hammond revealed that funds would be secured from trusts and charities to rescue and restore the Georgian residence, believed to be the largest private house in the UK, before a November 30 deadline.
Earlier this year, the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust managed to raise £7m to buy the Grade I listed house from its last private owners, the Newbold family, but it is estimated the cost of the repairs, to fully restore the property, could run over £40m in the next 12 to 15 years.
This new pledge, however, does secure the funding to buy the Rotherham house, which was conditional on there being further cash to preserve it.
Mr Hammond said: “Wentworth Woodhouse is at critical risk of being lost to future generations.
“A local effort has secured millions in funding from grants and charities – subject to the balance required being found by November 30. So we will provide a £7.6m grant towards urgent repairs to safeguard this key piece of Northern heritage.”
It comes after a campaign involving local businesswoman Julie Kenny, chair of trustees of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, and Rotherham MP John Healey.
Mr Healey said: “This is great news which gives the full go-ahead to plans to preserve one of Britain’s Great Houses for the nation.
“I met the Chancellor personally last month to press the case with the chair of the Trust Julie Kenny and Conservative MP Robert Jenrick, who is a heritage expert. We’ve been meeting ministers and civil servants behind the scenes for over a year, so I’m delighted that the Chancellor today recognised the scale of the challenge in saving Wentworth Woodhouse for the public and backed the huge potential boost it could bring to jobs, businesses and visitors in the North.
“The grant is a great vote of confidence for the work that the Trust and its chair Julie Kenny have been doing on the plans for the Great House.”
A statement on behalf of the Newbold family read: ‘It was always the wish of the family that the house should end up in safe hands and they are delighted this may now be the case, it’s a cause close to their hearts. We hope that shortly, the finest Georgian interiors in the country will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.
‘The Newbold family bought the house in 1999, as a retirement project that their father Clifford, a renowned architect, could enjoy. Sadly he died last year, but as the old Greek proverb says ‘ a society grows when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they will never sit.’