inside story of King George V and Queen Mary visit to Wentworth Woodhouse set to be revealed at special event

If walls could talk, what secrets would they tell? Visitors to Rotherham stately home Wentworth Woodhouse no longer have to ponder.

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 8:57 am

From August 7, the grand state rooms will be whispering memories from their past.

If These Walls Could Talk, a fascinating sound and vision experience, will take families back in time to hear the inside story of King George V and Queen Mary’s visit in 1912.

The King and Queen were guests of Earl Fitzwilliam. Their stay, which included a visit to Cadeby Colliery, scene of a mining disaster, made many a headline.

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A scene from If These Walls Could Talk - The Royal Visit at Wentworth Woodhouse

The story was retold in the famous book about Wentworth Woodhouse Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey, and in the recent blockbuster movie, Downton Abbey.

Now it is being told from a new perspective. Housemaids and manservants, and even the characters of an oil painting from the 1600s, will be coming to life to talk to visitors.

Servants gossip as they work and the children of the 1st Earl of Strafford recall the visit they witnessed from their portrait by Van Dyck, which hung in the State Dining Room for centuries.

Their stories are full of true historical detail and were created by painstaking work by the research team at the Grade I-listed mansion.

Film-maker Wayne Sables, left, Jennifer Booth of Wentworth Woodhouse, right, and the cast of If Walls Could Talk

Scenes will be projected on to walls in the State Dining Room and on to gauze backdrops in other rooms and corridors. It will soon be on show in the famed Marble Saloon too.

The pilot project uses the latest technology and has been made possible with the support of a £40,000 Respond and Reimagine Grant from Art Fund, the UK’s national charity for art.

If it is a hit with visitors, the Preservation Trust regenerating the house hopes to do more If Walls Could Talk historic storytelling.

A scene from If These Walls Could Talk - The Royal Visit at Wentworth Woodhouse

Visitor operations manager Jennifer Booth dreamed up the concept. “Children love to explore our big, empty rooms and corridors but many leave without knowing much of our history,” she said.

“I set out to create a way of telling one of the mansion’s stories in a way that would surprise and delight families. Projection technology was the way for us to do it and it makes fabulous use of our stunning and spacious interiors.”

Award-winning Doncaster film-maker and multi-media specialist Wayne Sables captured the footage and employed Projection Mapping, a digital technique which utilises projected images, films and digital content.

West Yorkshire artists and drama practitioners Becky Newbould and Gemma Whelan, of We Great Ladies, worked to create the project and star in the footage.

Gemma wrote the script and Becky, whose background is in visual arts, dipped back into history and consuted with Wentworth Woodhouse’s research team to ensure period detail and costumes were as accurate as possible.

Gemma said: “We wanted to bring back to life the voices of the house that had stayed silent for many years and transport families back to a special time in history.

"The story is fun and engaging but also explains the huge class divide and empathises with the Cadeby mining tragedy, which brought the community together.”

We Great Ladies will be present on the launch weekend of If These Walls Could Talk (August 7 and 8). The experience can be seen by visitors on house and gardens admission tickets every Wednesday to Sunday.