Wentworth Woodhouse is a Georgian mansion on an epic scale
The house once had a staff of 1,000 but its decline started after the Second World War.
Wentworth Woodhouse was one of great mansions of Georgian England but slid into neglect and disrepair during the second half of the 20th century.
– The building is actually two grand houses, built back-to-back. The baroque West Front was built for the 1st Marquess of Rockingham from about 1725 but it is the slightly later, 606ft wide, Palladian East Front which is the behemoth.
– In 1792 the estate was inherited by the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam, beginning a long relationship between this aristocratic family and the surrounding community.
– One room was created to house Stubbs’s famous painting of the family’s racehorse, Whistlejacket. The work was sold to the National Gallery for £11 million in 1997.
– The 60ft square Marble Saloon was called the finest Georgian room in England.
– Princess Victoria stayed at Wentworth Woodhouse in 1835 and wrote that it was “an immense house”.
– More than 1,000 people were employed by the house and estate in the mid 19th century, including a “rat catcher” and “state bed maker”.
– When King George V stayed in 1912 he needed 76 bedrooms for his entourage.
– After the Second World War, open-cast mining devastated the estate with workings coming almost to the door of the house. Many saw this as a vindictive act of class warfare by Labour minister of fuel and power, Manny Shinwell.
– The 8th Earl Fitzwilliam died in a plane crash in 1948 along with Marchioness of Hartington, the younger sister of John F Kennedy. He left no male heir.
– After the death of the 8th Earl the house began to decline. A sale of valuables at the time included 14 four-poster beds. It was later used as a teacher training college.
– The Fitzwilliam family ended its connection with the house in 1979, with the death of the 10th and last Earl. The house and 83 acres were sold to a private buyer.
– The sale did not include the deer park, the rest of the estate and the nearby Wentworth village, which were placed in a charitable trust. The estate, which features a range of listed follies including the 90ft high Rockingham Monument and 100ft high Hoober Stand, continues to be run by the Fitzwilliam Wentworth Amenity Trust.
– In 1999 architectural historian John Martin Robinson wrote that “the failure of Wentworth Woodhouse to become a stately home open to the public after the Second World War and thus to have secured its future like Chatsworth or Woburn is an architectural tragedy”.
– The house was bought by architect Clifford Newbold in 1999 who hoped a huge legal claim against the Coal Authority for mining damage would help him restore the house. But this failed.
– The house was bought by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust in 2017, partly funded by a £3.5 million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
– As well as the vast mansion, the trust bought 83 acres of land immediately around it; the stable block, which is almost as large as the house; and a range of other buildings, including the huge, derelict Camelia House.
– Wentworth Woodhouse is regularly used as a film location – appearing as Buckingham Palace in the recent hit movie Darkest Hour and also in the BBC drama Victoria.