BREAKING: Yorkshire's Wentworth Woodhouse stately home saved with Â£7m sale to trust
Yorkshire's Wentworth Woodhouse stately home has been saved with a Â£7m sale to a fundraising trust which plans to refurbish it into one of the region's top tourist attractions.
It is estimated around £42 million of repairs will be needed over the next 15 to 20 years, believe the new owners, the specially formed Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, initiated by SAVE Britain’s Heritage.
The £7m funds for purchase have come from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Monument Trust, The Art Fund, The JP Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, and Sir Sigismund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement.
Major support has also come from the National Trust which funded the all-important business plan.
In addition, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Autumn Statement announced a grant of £7.6m towards urgent repairs to the fabric of the house.
Now after 70 years of uncertainty the future of one of England’s grandest country houses is now secure, says Sir Simon Jenkins, a trustee of SAVE, which has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975, by a group of architectural historians, writers, journalists and planners.
He said: “In 40 years this is SAVE’s greatest triumph, a great moment for SAVE and Yorkshire too”.
Wentworth Woodhouse is a Grade 1-listed building, with a frontage that is twice the width of Buckingham Palace, situated in magnificent grounds on the Barnsley and Rotherham border, 10 minutes from the M1 motorway at Birdwell.
Catherine Bailey’s best selling book, Black Diamonds, tells the story of the home's Fitzwilliam coal-mining family dynasty past.
The stunning house alone sits on 2.5 acres – nearly one-and-a-half football pitches. It boasts five miles of corridors, is 150 times the size of the average home, with 1,000 windows, 365 rooms, stabling for 100 horses and was formerly owned by the aristocrat who is believed to have inspired Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy.
King George V and Queen Mary visited South Yorkshire and stayed at Wentworth Woodhouse for four days in July 1912.
It has been the setting for a number of film and television productions including ITV's recent Victoria, Mr Turner, a 2014 biographical drama about the life of painter J M W Turner, BBC mini-series Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and featured in the David Walliams’ BBC children’s drama Billionaire Boy.
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The house was bought in 199 by architect Clifford Newbold, who achieved his dream of opening the house to the public for the first time.
But following his death it has now been sold to the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust.
Surveys into repair work found £42 million is needed to be spent on the house over the next 12 to 15 years to meet the backlog of repairs and subsidence damage.
The Chancellor announced a surprise £7.6m Government grant to save Wentworth Woodhouse in last November's Autumn Statement - with just seven days to spare.
It comes after a campaign involving local businesswoman Julie Kenny, chair of trustees of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, and Rotherham MP John Healey, who said the grant was a vote of confidence for the trust and Julie Kenny, giving the full go-ahead to plans to preserve one of Britain’s Great Houses for the nation - a huge potential boost to jobs, businesses and visitors in the North.
Despite the best efforts of two public sector owners and two private owners, this vast house has ultimately proved too expensive for either the public or the private sector to maintain. In 2012, working with entrepreneurs Kit Martin and Roger Tempest, SAVE therefore devised a third way, which involves a variety of compatible uses generating income to keep the listed buildings in repair, with the mansion placed in a charitable trust to maximize fundraising potential.
The SAVE scheme rests on four pillars. The magnificent interiors – complete with Roman and 18th century sculptures which have stood in the marble hall and grand staircase since the 18th century - will be opened to the public with help from the National Trust, which has promised £750,000 over the first three years of opening. The north wing, already converted as a student refectory with catering kitchen, will be used for events; the stable courtyard will provide attractive accommodation for small businesses; and some 15-18 houses and flats will be created, suitable as holiday lets or short leases.
Marcus Binney, Executive President of SAVE, said: "This is a triumph against all the odds. It is a deal which the lawyers advised was so complicated it could never normally be done. It has taken five years of sustained hard work to secure support, but we have learnt over 40 years that however hopeless or impossible the battle for a great historic building may seem we should never give up. Huge thanks are due to Julie Kenny, chair of Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, and her trustees who against precipitous deadlines have secured all the complex agreements needed to complete purchase.
“We also thank the Newbold family for their help, cooperation and patience while the rescue plan has been drawn up and the necessary funding secured. Clifford Newbold was the first to open this great house to visitors giving huge pleasure and excitement to everyone who came."