posted 06-27-2006 07:06 AM
Wentworth Woodhouse - a public or a private future?
Wentworth Woodhouse is one of the finest Georgian houses in the country, with reputedly the longest facade of any of them. Built around a seventeenth century mansion, it took almost the entire eighteenth century to complete the vast remodelling initiated by the First Earl of Rockingham. The interiors are, as Pevsner wrote, "quite exceptional".
The family decamped in 1949 following the death of the Eighth Earl of Fitzwilliam, flogging most of the magnificent contents - including Stubb's Whistlejacket - in the process. The house became a teacher training college until, in1986, it was sold to one Wensley Haydon-Bailley, then a multi millionaire. Last year he was forced to enter into a voluntary bankruptcy agreement with his many creditors, who have now put the house on the market through Strutt and Parker for £1.5m (the magnificent park, with many fine follies, was invested in a independent trust on the death of the last Earl Fitzwilliam and has been restored)
. The Georgian Group has argued persuasively that such is the outstanding importance of the building that the central Palladian block containing the state apartments should be invested in a independent body and opened to the public. Other less important parts of the house, and ancillary buildings, could be sensitively converted to other uses - most obviously housing - to generate income. In any case, a substantial endowment would be necessary. In the 1980s the National Heritage Memorial Fund was established to provide such endowments and did this until it was shamefully run down by the Major government. Labour has pledged it to return to a meaningful size, though that actually only amounts to a return to 1997 levels - £5m, which will be hardly enough to endow Wentworth.
Nevertheless, SAVE believes that the Georgian Group approach is the right one, and substantial public monies should be made available. The local authority is currently preparing a planning brief. Its role will be critical: the danger is that the building is sold to buyer attracted by the glamour, the size and the price, but without the understanding of the long term responsibility ownership entails, the means to maintain the house, or a sustainable business plan robust enough to last for many decades. The lesson of Wentworth and many other fine houses is that such owners come and go, leaving the building facing a new crisis every ten years or so. Wentworth is too important to allow this to happen. Some believe that there are already enough houses invested in trusts and open as museums. Wentworth could follow Stoneleigh Abbey in pioneering a new approach, a combination of museum and apartments, of public and private capital, that demonstrates that outstanding houses can still be acquired for the nation. If nothing else, surely such a "public-private partnership" will appeal to New Labour.
Located near Rotherham, South Yorkshire the owner of this home is Clifford Newbould and has the approximate value of £15 million.
Wentworth Woodhouse is the UK’s largest privately owned stately home whose front is twice the size of a football pitch and has 360 rooms. This residence was one owned by Wensley Haydon-Baillie.
As it is the UK’s largest privately owned stately home it was sold to Clifford Newbould in 1999 for £1.5 million and was built in the 18th century and was the greatest building of the Georgian age.
The property has 85 acres of land and was at one time the home of the Marquis of Rockingham and Earl of Fitzwilliam.