Historic gardens set to re-open to become South Yorkshire's first National Trust site
The National Trust is expected to take on a 25 year lease for Barnsley's Grade I Listed Wentworth Castle gardens, which have been closed to the public since the trust which ran the historic site folded amid financial troubles.
It means the site, the only Grade I Listed park and gardens in South Yorkshire, will open to the public again for the 2019 summer season, if the deal goes ahead. The development follows talks between the council, National Trust and the Northern College, which occupies the stately home that is surrounded by the gardens. The deal will also mean the National Trust getting a presence in South Yorkshire for the first time, alongside other well known attractions including Nostell, Fountains Abbey and Clumber Park. Wentworth Castle and its gardens date from the 18th Century and remained closed to the public for decades after falling into disrepair. They were re-opened in 2007 after the Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust was formed, using money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other sources to finance the scheme, but it was wound up after failing to make a commercial success of the site.
Joanna Royle, assistant director for the National Trust in the north, said 'Wentworth Castle Gardens is such an important and beautiful place, and it is a vital green space for local communities. We're looking forward to building on the hard work of Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust at the site while sharing the rich heritage and stories of the gardens and its creators.
'But above all, we want to ensure that everyone visiting next year will be made very welcome and once again be able to enjoy this as a place to explore, walk, relax, play and spend time together outdoors.
'We are delighted to be working together with Barnsley Council, The Northern College, and the local community to help safeguard it.'
Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton said:Â 'I'm really pleased to announce our partnership with the National Trust and Northern College that will see Wentworth Castle Gardens reopen to the public.
'It has always been our ambition to secure a sustainable future for this magnificent estate and our partnership with the National Trust does just that.
'This is a great investment for Barnsley, boosting our visitor economy and bringing new jobs into the borough. I look forward to seeing people from all over the country visit Barnsley and Wentworth Castle Gardens.'
Diana Terris, Barnsley Council's Chief Executive, added: 'We'll work closely with the National Trust, through our award-winning Barnsley Museums service, to get our local communities involved in development of the site.
'A lot of work has happened over the past 18 months to get us to this point. I would like to thank the staff and volunteers who have maintained the gardens while we've been going through the process of securing a future for the site.'
Northern College is expected to collaborate on educational and community projects, encouraging its own students and volunteers from the wider community to get involved.