After years of inactivity, the team behind the “the greatest restoration project for a generation” at Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham look back on a year of progress.
During 2019, huge strides were made to shore up the future of the Grade I listed Georgian stately home, now owned by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT).
Emergency repairs to huge swathes of the roof were completed, protecting key areas of the mansion and its riding school against the elements.
It was also a year of growth for the Trust, which bought the mansion, its Stables, Riding School, Camellia House and 83 acres in March 2017 for £7m.
Finding a critical state of decay, the Trust set to work with just one phone line, a handful of committed staff and a single vacuum cleaner.
There are now 52 employees. A total of 33 new jobs were created in 2019 over just nine months, including 15 new tour guides, an operations manager, catering staff, front-of-house and booking assistants.
During the year volunteers grew to 211 and the 22,333 hours of unpaid support they gave equated to £340,115.
Julie Kenny, Chair of the trustees at WWPT, said: “We look back on what has been achieved in what is only the second year as custodians of Wentworth Woodhouse with pride and astonishment.
“We are expanding rapidly and this progress has been made thanks to our small, dedicated team who respond to ever-changing challenges on a daily basis. The commitment they show is truly remarkable.”
The Trust’s finances grew significantly in the 2018-19 financial year. Grants of £1.825m were awarded and over £45,000 came in from the public’s donations to the Make Your Mark in History roof slates appeal.
Tours, including a unique rooftop visitor experience, attracted over 20,000 visitors and many more attended events and the new cafe. Eight weddings were hosted for some 1,700 guests.
Other achievements during the year include the installation of fibre broadband, which has enabled the installation of state-of-the-art security surveillance and extended Wifi to the café and reception areas.
Sarah McLeod, CEO of the WWPT, said: “Working at Wentworth Woodhouse is not easy. The expectations on the team are great and it is true to say, we laugh, we cry and at times feel somewhat overwhelmed with the enormity of the challenge. But we all love coming to work.”
Contractors Aura Conservation ended their work on Phase One of the Trust’s Emergency Works Programme in December.
Heritage construction specialists Robert Woodhead Ltd have been on site for a year, carrying out Phase Two work, including the replacement of roofs, repairs to high-level stone work, Georgian roof statues and urns.
Donald Insall Associates, the country’s leading specialists in historical architects are also employed on the project.
Images: WWPT / Woodhead Group