Wentworth Woodhouse is opening its grand doors to visitors again this week.
Despite the Grade I listed country house in Rotherham being closed for many months in the pandemic, not a single redundancy has been made and four new top jobs have been created.
The Preservation Trust regenerating the site has been working throughout the pandemic to continue its massive task of protecting and regenerating historic buildings – and to bounce back with a host of COVID-safe visitor attractions.
“Wentworth Woodhouse is coming back better than ever, said Sarah McLeod, CEO of the Trust which bought the house for £7m in 2017.
“We may have been closed but we didn’t waste a minute. We used the downtime to source grants, plough on with vital repairs and organise a COVID-safe environment for visitors and staff, plus new attractions.”
“We are very proud to say we have not had to lose a single job and have created more. On May 19, 92 per cent of our staff will be back and others will have returned by July. Many have been furloughed since March 2020. We have the majority of our volunteers coming back, too. Seeing each other again will be quite emotional.”
There are four new key roles – a Chief Operating Officer, Head of Hospitality, Fundraising Manager and Head of Marketing and Digital. A new events manager is also onboard. Their expertise will help steer the Georgian country house to a brighter future.
Re-opening on May 19, guided tours of the mansion and 18th century stables will run each morning, with an afternoon one-way ‘freeflow’ opportunity to visit rooms in the mansion. Art exhibitions in the chapel and the Pillared Hall will be other reasons to visit.
New tours are also in the offing, including an immersive digital experience for families and a Black Diamonds Tour devised by author Catherine Bailey.
The gift shops and tea rooms also reopen on May 19. The tea rooms will operate by table service with a new menu featuring local produce.
New activities, including outdoor cinema, craft workshop and a wildlife trail for families will be staged in the mansion’s 55-acre garden, which opened to visitors last summer.
A Culture Recovery Fund grant via the National Lottery Heritage Fund has provided more outdoor catering facilities, a classroom and two garden cabins, which can be rented for family events and small parties from June onwards.
Supporters visiting for the first time in many months will be greeted by the sight of the mansion’s famed East Front again.
During the first lockdown in March 2020 the facade was completely shrouded in scaffold to enable roof repairs. Almost two acres of repairs have been completed, safeguarding the rooms beneath, and other crucial tasks have been carried out.
Said Sarah McLeod: “We now have roofs which don’t leak, a heating system that works, no asbestos in our cellars, beautifully restored ceilings in the Pillared Hall and a repaired roof on the North Quadrant on the East Front.
“Everyone is working hard to prepare for opening. Rooms are being tidied, floors are being scrubbed and a team is testing our Covid-safe Visitor Code to the letter. We are so excited and determined to make it a success.
“As a team member said in a video our new Digital Team has just produced: Bring it on in 2021; we are Wentworth Woodhouse and we’re ready for anything!”