The Star's former sports reporter Les Payne triumphs in stately home's contest to name best South Yorkshire individual

Les Payne. Picture: Dean Atkins
Les Payne. Picture: Dean Atkins
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When the owner of celebrated stately home Wentworth Woodhouse asked its supporters to name their all-time favourite person from South Yorkshire, the nominations were many and varied - Michael Parkinson, Brian Blessed, Michael Palin and Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill were all put forward, to name but a few.

And the winner has special significance for The Star - as the paper's former sports reporter Les Payne has triumphed after being picked as the county's foremost individual.

Wentworth Woodhouse has been taken over by a trust which is restoring the house with the aim of opening it to the public. The owners appealed on Instagram to choose the foremost South Yorkshire individual.

Wentworth Woodhouse has been taken over by a trust which is restoring the house with the aim of opening it to the public. The owners appealed on Instagram to choose the foremost South Yorkshire individual.

The Grade I-listed Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham - which is the largest private residence in the UK and has the longest country house facade in Europe - started the contest on Instagram as part of its 'Make Your Mark In History' appeal that will fund a major restoration with the aim of opening the site to the public.

The property, built in the 1700s for the Marquess of Rockingham, was taken over by a trust last year and millions of pounds is to be spent repairing the roof to protect the grand state rooms. The appeal hopes to raise £250,000 for the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust's work, giving people the chance to have a roof slate engraved with a dedication for a minimum of £50.

Les's win means his name will be etched permanently on a piece of pale green Westmorland slate destined to be laid on the house. Born in Rawmarsh, he spent 45 years reporting on Rotherham United, first for the Rotherham Advertiser and then The Star, and on his retirement in 2014 aged 65 the Millers named the press room after him at their New York Stadium. He still writes for the club website today.

It’s estimated he watched 2,000 Rotherham games on 146 grounds in his decades covering the team - and he also wrote about Sheffield Wednesday and United, Doncaster, Chesterfield and Barnsley.

The press room at the New York Stadium was named after Rotherham United writer Les Payne. Picture: Dean Atkins

The press room at the New York Stadium was named after Rotherham United writer Les Payne. Picture: Dean Atkins

Meanwhile, conservation architects Donald Insall Associates have been appointed by the trust and Historic England to oversee the project at Wentworth Woodhouse. Aura Conservation, which looks after historic and listed buildings, will be undertaking the roof repairs using £7.6 million announced in the Government's 2016 budget.

Huge areas of the house's 3,250 sq m roof are in desperate need of repair, and Historic England is administering the Government grant.

Messages and even handprints can be engraved on slates in return for donations, following a tradition set by craftsmen who left their mark hundreds of years ago. Email emma@wentworthwoodhouse.org.uk or call 01226 351161 for information.