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Take a look at the picture above of Wentworth Woodhouse. Go on - click on it. I lived there! But more about that later....... First of all I will share a little information about this fabulous building. Wentworth Woodhouse is one of Britain's biggest stately homes covering 2.5 acres in the village of Wentworth near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England. It is just 6 miles north of Sheffield. It is set in an impressive 150 acre estate. Now for some amazing statistics! The building itself contains over 365 rooms - one for every day of the year! It also has 1000 windows! It is so big that it is alleged that guests were once given confetti of different colours to strew so they could find their way back to their rooms! Wentworth Woodhouse was built around 1725- 1735 and incorporates parts of an earlier 17th century manor house. It is basically two houses joined back to back. There is the East Front to it which we see in the picture and a West Front. The Western house is the older of the two. It is less formal than the East Front and is constructed of brick with baroque stone facings. Thomas Watson-Wentworth, who later became the Earl of Malton and Marquis of Rockingham, built most of the house. He commissioned Henry Flitcroft to start work on the East Front around 1734 before the West Front was finished. The Paladian east front was designed by Ralph Tunnicliffe and Henry Flitcroft and completed around 1750. It is thought that the decision to build the much larger East Front was due to a family feud between the Wentworth and the Stainborough sides of the Wentworth family. The Stainboroughs were at that time extending Wentworth Castle and the Wentworth branch of the family wanted to 'live up' to the Stainboroughs! The East Front of Wentworth Woodhouse is visible to the public from the right of way through Wentworth Park. It is an absolutely stunning structure around 606 feet in length and has the longest frontage of any country house in Europe. Just to give you some idea of its length - it's twice as wide as Buckingham Palace. The 2nd Marquis of Rockingham from 1750-82 completed and furnished the interior of the house. He was also responsible for the construction of the stables for the horses. But these stables were not just ordinary stables. They were designed by Carr on a grand scale to match the house and were named 'Stable Block. The block can easily be viewed from the public path through the park. The stables were comprised of 15 bays with room enough for 100 horses. It is an impressive structure with Tuscan columns, pediment and cupola. There is a large fountain in the centre of the courtyard although, sadly, this is no longer operational. The only major change to the exterior of the house since it was originally erected was made by the Fitzwilliam family. They constructed an extra storey to each of the wings of the East Front around 1782. The main entrance to the house is via the Pillared Hall which is accessed from the East Front. Leading from the Pillared Hall is a grand staircase to the Marble Saloon. This is a 60 foot square room. It is 40 feet high and is the main reception room in the house. It is said that in 1912 the ballerina Anna Pavlova danced for the King Adjacent to Marble Saloon are two grand rooms named after the paintings that once decorated them. The 'Van Dyke' room and the 'Whistlejacket' room. Whistlejacket was the 2nd Marquis's favourite racehorse and George Stubbs was commissioned to paint a huge portrait of the horse in 1759. It now resides in the National Gallery in London. Incidentally, Whistlejacket's grave is just off the path past the house near Stable Block. To the north of the Marble Saloon is another huge room called the Long Gallery. This is about 130 feet long and once contained a huge collection of paintings and other works of art. Humphrey Repton was employed in 1790 to remodel the park. The park has several follies, including Hoober Stand, Kepple' s Column and the Mausoleum. Hoober Stand was designed by Henry Flitcroft in the shape of a tapering pyramid with a hexagonal lantern. It is 30m high and was built in 1747 to commemorate the defeat of the Jacobite rebellion. Keppel's Column is a 115ft tower designed by John Carr. It was erected in the late 18th century to commemorate the acquittal of the court-martialled Admiral Keppel. The Rockingham Mausoleum is a 90ft high, three storey building situated in woodland. Only the top level is visible over the treetops. It was commissioned in 1783 as a memorial to Charles Wentworth and was also designed by John Carr. The ground floor is an enclosed hall containing statues and busts of his eight closest friends. The first floor is an open colonnade with Corinthian columns surrounding the empty sarcophagus. The top storey is a Roman-style cupola. The Needle's Eye is a 45ft high sandstone block pyramid with an ornamental urn on the top. It has a tall Gothic arch through the middle which straddles a disused roadway. It was built in the mid 18th century, allegedly to win a bet after Charles Wentworth claimed he could drive a coach and horses through the eye of a needle. There is some secrecy and mystery surrounding the house. The Fitzwilliams had archived letters and papers since medieval times. In 1972 the 10th and last Earl, TomFitzwilliam, ordered his employees to destroy most of Wentworth's records. They were taken by tractor to a bonfire that blazed for three weeks. The fire destroyed the private papers of the 7th, 8th and 9th earls who lived at Wentworth in the first half of the 20th century. It is suggested that the secrets are to do with descent. Who was the real heir to Wentworth? The last earl at Wentworth, then, was Tom Fitzwilliam who lived there until 1979. However, after the Second World War he leased parts of the building and parkland to the Local Education Authority for use as a teacher training college. The Earl kept a suite of 40 rooms, but chose to live elsewhere. From 1949 to 1974 the house became known as the Lady Mabel College of Physical Education (named after the sister of the 7th Earl Fitzwilliam) which trained female PE teachers. It later merged with Sheffield City Polytechnic At that time the Fitzwilliam Wentworth Estate retained the western sections of the house as a private residence. The college constructed a number of buildings including an extension in the kitchen courtyard of the main house, extensions to the stables, and accommodation blocks in the car park. In 1986 the college closed when the Local Education Authority surrendered its lease to the Fitzwilliam Wentworth Estate. The house has since passed through the hands of a number of private owners. In 1989 the house, stables and gardens were purchased by a business man - Wensley Haydon-Baillie for use as private residence. However, in 1998 Wensley admitted to debts of £13m and Wentworth Woodhouse was repossessed. The Julius Baer Bank took possession in 1998. In 1988 Tom's daughter put the house and 30 acres up for sale. After standing empty for a year, the lawns somewhat neglected and the roof at risk of collapse, it was bought by an anonymous bidder for the knockdown price of £1.5m. This works out at just £7 per square foot - cheaper than a council house in Rotherham. The new owner is Clifford Newbold, 80, an architect from Highgate, North London. It is said by locals that Clifford is a recluse and occupies just 5 rooms of this huge mansion. Nobody in the village of Wentworth knows what he looks like. He does not employ locals as he is afraid of gossip and he does not answer letters. Nevertheless, the grounds of Wentworth Woodhoues are still open to the public. They cover over 150 acres and are known as Wentworth Park. The park itself is a great visitor and tourist attraction. It covers a huge area of grassland and woodland with several lakes and deer still roam through the park. It is possible to view the house and other features from close quarters. Some of the follies, too, are open to the public. Entry to the park is free and it is open at all times. Parking is possible just outside the main entrance and parking is also free. There is also a garden centre. The garden centre is situated in sixteen acres of walled and landscaped gardens and includes a Japanese Garden and a Maze. Wentworth Garden Centre is set in the former Kitchen, Italian and Japanese gardens of Wentworth Woodhouse. There is also a cafe, a playground for children, food and craft shops and a children's farm. Now I will tell you about the time that I lived in Wentworth Woodhouse! I lived there from September 1975 until July 1976. I went to train as a Physical Education teacher when it was the former Lady Mabel College. Although there was a new building in the grounds for student accommodation I was lucky enough to have my room inside the house itself! Can you imagine what it was like for me? I was a 19 year old girl who lived in a council house on a council estate and here I was living in this superb building. When I first saw Wentworth Woodhouse I was 'awe struck' - it was breath taking. The entrance to the house is known as Pillared Hall. As the name suggest it was full of magnificent pillars and columns. To the left and the right were huge fireplaces. There were lots of statues in there. Leading out of the Pillared Hall was a magnificent stair case. At the top of the staircase to the left was the famous Marble Saloon. This was full of marble from top to bottom. When I was there Marble Saloon was used for lots of purposes. We had lectures in there, had dance lectures in there, I sat my teacher examinations in there, we had grand 'balls' in there. It was said to be haunted by 'Lady Mabel' and one night myself and some student friends decided we would 'camp out' in there to try to see Lady Mabel. We took along our sleeping bags and pillows. However, after a couple of hours we saw nothing, became a little bored and went to bed. There was also the room Whistlejacket with lots of paintings in there. Once again we used this room for lectures. I recall that Wentworth Woodhousehad a chapel. As a Catholic I used to go along to services in there. Around the whole of the building were pictures, works of art, Rockingham Pottery and other artefacts on display. (Students could be trusted in those days!) We had a huge refrectory were real 'home made ' types of meal were devoured by the hungry Physical Education students. I have to admit putting on a stone in weight during my first year at college. But maybe this also had something to do with the pies and peas they served in the college bar by Ernie and Betty. There was a big laundry and drying room. Underneath the house were huge cellars - it was there that my trunk was put when I arrived at the college and it was there that it stayed! Inside that trunk were several pairs of pink - yes, pink - platform shoes. However, by the time I had finished my course, platform shoes were 'out'. I never bothered to take my trunk or platform shoes home.... I wonder if they are still there today? They would be antiques themselves by now!" My room was in a part of the house known affectionately as 'nest'. The rooms comprising nest were part of the former servants quarters. Nest was a series of rooms with doors leading from one to the next. I think there were 5 or 6 rooms. Unfortunately mine was the first room and everyone in the other rooms had to walk thorugh mine to get to theirs! I have to admit that I did have a strange experience in that room. It was that hot summer of '76. All the grass at Wentworth turned yellow. It was baking hot and absolutely stifling. I opened the window in my room. They were great big sash windows. My room looked out onto a sort of green courtyard area. During the night I was 'awakened' by a terrific noise. I could hear people shouting and jeering. I went to the window and down in the courtyard I saw a very strange sight. There were lots of people that seemed to be dressed in medieval costume. In the centre of the 'green' a cock fight was taking place. There were two huge white cocks fighting away! I will never forget that. Could it have been that sometime in the past a cock fight had taken place there? I did have another strange experience in my room at the college. Once again I was awoken in the middle of the night. It was as if a weight was bearing down on me and I could not move..... The grounds were fantastic. Deer roamed in the park. In the summer we used to play and watch cricket on the front lawns. We also had a swimming pool, two lots of tennis courts, squash courts and a couple of sports halls in the Stable Block area. It was idyllic..... I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to reside in this beautiful house. It is something that I shall never forget! My son is going to Sheffield in September to do a degree. I can't wait. I shall pop over to Wentworth Woodhouse to reminise. It's just such a pity that I will not be able to go inside once again.... I hate to think what state of repair the mansion is in inside.... Let's just hope and pray that this magnificent architectural masterpiece will be restored one day to its former glory making it once again a stately home. And, maybe, one day access will be given to the general public. It is impossible with words or with the picture above to appreciate this breath taking magnificent mansion. I would suggest that if you have not visited before then do so. It provides a great free day out for all the family. (This review may also be found on other review sites under the name of Krazikas.)
Since MickSheff has done such an amazing job of the house review and surrounding, I'll focus on the garden centre which is the best part of my visit. I went to Wentworth garden centre with friends who live nearby. We went one Sunday afternoon in autumn. As we both have small children this was a good time of year as the centre can get quite busy in the summer. As you arrive in their large car park you can't see much of what is to come. As you enter the centre you come into their outdoor plant area, this is a gardeners paradise with many variety's of plants and flowers, also other outdoor equipment like compost, pots, tubs and tools. Other out door equipment, furniture and sheds can be found further into the centre. There are quite a few sections and shops to be seen, the main part is obviously the garden centre it's self, apart from the outdoor section there is an indoor centre too with exotic and house plants, pots, water features and more furniture. Another section is a row of cute little craft shops, all unusual and typically expensive. These include a candle shop, an artist studio, a jewellery shop and one with gifts and mystical ornaments, very much a girls shop. The largest shop has a great variety of items from gift's to garden aids to artificial flowers. They sell books, toy's, children's outdoor clothes and accessories, hand made ornaments and gift's, and other aids for many kinds of hobbies. Aside from this there is also a tea rooms, a very traditional shop with a variety of tea and coffee and lots of delicious fresh homemade pastries and cakes. A treat for anyone. The last shop was a pet shop, mostly filled with the usual kind of thing but also some living animals for sale, like budgie's and fish. The main attractions for my family and our friends was the beautiful historical gardens that you can take a leisurely walk around, the gardens date back from the 18th century and were created by the Earl of Wentworth. They extend I am told into a walk that leads to Wentworth village, also a popular and pretty village. My son and his little friend greatly enjoyed the newly updated playground and spent a happy hour being pushed on the swings and exploring the climbing frame, there where two, one for younger children and one for around 5 years up. The best part for myself and the rest of our group was the animal farm. You do have to pay for this section but its not much (£1.90 for adults and £1.50 for children and OAP's) and well worth it. When we went the whole garden centre was having work done to improve and modernise, the need for this showed the most in the animal farm but my friend has been back and says the improvements are very good and they have also extended the section too. When I went they had the usual farm animals like sheep, pigs, goats, a horse and ducks, also chipmunks, owls and with other unusual birds. You can buy bags of food and our children loved feeding some of the animals. Dotted around are plaques with interesting and educational information about the animals on too. Then they have bits with toys and puzzles for the children like a variety of tractors and diggers for children to play on or little wooden puzzles to put together. As you can probably tell I am definately a fan and hope to return soon to see the finished works that I saw half done last time. I would definately recommend it but I would make a full day and take a picnic, and if there is the chance of rain or has been beforehand then make sure you have wellies or other suitable footwear.
The Wentworth Woodhouse estate lies just a few miles from where I live in South Yorkshire and it is surely one of the finest examples of a grand country house and estate in England. Sadly the house itself is privately owned and strictly out of bounds to the general public but the grounds themselves are open and these offer superb views of the house, which at over 600 feet (180 metres) long this is actually the widest house in England. THE HISTORY Thomas Watson-Wentworth, who later became the Earl of Malton, and then the Marquis of Rockingham, had much of the present day house built. This work began around 1725 although there was a much older building that occupied this site. Initially the house comprised of what is known today as the West Front, but even before this was completed in 1734 Thomas had become either dissatisfied (or maybe envious) and he had already commissioned a well-known architect of the day, Henry Flitcroft to build something on a far greater scale. The house as it is today is actually two separate houses, with the former house more or less completely obscured by its larger companion as we view it from the public thoroughfare. The smaller West Front, which boasts 150 Rooms of its own is not actually visible to the public and it is only the larger East Front that is seen. One theory is that Thomas Watson-Wentworth commissioned the building of the East Front, which even today has a longer frontage than other House in England, in response to other family members who had recently rebuilt the nearby Wentworth Castle. There had been a long family feud between the Stainborough branch of the Wentworth Family from the Castle, and Thomas's side of the family. Today ,Wentworth Castle is clearly visible from the M1 Motorway, just West of Barnsley. By 1782 the present occupiers must have needed even more space and an extra storey was added to each of the East Front wings, to give extra bedrooms. There were no further major structural changes to the house after this date, but it was around this same time (the early 1780's) that a famous landscape architect called Humphrey Repton was brought in to redesign the grounds, and create the parkland that we see today. Apparently one of his tasks was to remove a hill, which obscured the view from the house! THE HOUSE ITSELF Since the Wentworth-Woodhouse House is not open to the public it is not really known what the interior of the house actually looks like. A historian called Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, who was privileged to have access to the house, last described it in a book published in 1959. Since the house is a Grade 1 listed building it is however unlikely that things will have changed very much since this date. The main reception room for the house is called the Marble Saloon, which is accessed via the East Front. This is described as being accessed by a grand staircase. The Marble Room is over 60 foot (20 metre) square and the ceilings are over 40 feet (12 metres) high. Pevsner describes three other rooms in detail, two of these are named after paintings which once hung in these rooms. These are the Van Dyke Room and the Whistlejacket Room. The Whistlejacket is a painting by George Stubbs from 1759 of a famous racehorse of that name which was owned by the 2nd Marquis, this painting is now in the National Gallery in London. The other room that Pevsner describes is called the Long Gallery, which is over 130 feet (40 metres) long and as its name suggests is where most of the paintings are to be found. We know that the house contains well over 350 different rooms and stands in private grounds, which cover 150 acres. The public area of the park covers a further 600 acres. In 1999 the house went up for sale and was purchased for an undisclosed sum well in excess of £15 million (27.5 million Euros), it was however estimated at that time that the cost of renovating the house was around a further £15 million (27.5 million Euros). THE EXTERNAL BUILDINGS AROUND THE HOUSE Close to the house there are two other large buildings of significance, both of which are clearly visible from the public footpaths within the grounds. The first of these is the Stable Block. John Carr built this in 1768. Within the centre of the courtyard that surrounds this building there is a huge fountain, which can be glimpsed through the gates as you walk by. This stable can accommodate over 100 horses. The other significant building around here is the Lady Mabel College. This was used as a Physical Education College between 1949 and 1974. It is named after Lady Mabel Smith, the sister of the 7th Earl Fitzwillian. Strangely neither of these buildings have any modern day use and both are left unused and empty. WENTWORTH PARK Wentworth Park is a vast area of open grassland and scattered woodland that surrounds the house. There are several public rights of way that pass through the park and these are very popular with visitors at weekends and bank holidays, especially during the summer months. It is from these footpaths that the East Front of the house can be clearly seen, but within the grounds there is a lot more to see and do as well. The park extends beyond the house for over 600 acres and contains some excellent isolated spots where you can sit and have a picnic in the summer. The fishing lakes are always popular with visitors and these also attract large amounts of wildlife here too. Some of the more interesting features within the park include the Wentworth Follies. These are a set of four different monuments scattered across the grounds. Each one of these was built to commemorate a specific occasion and each one holds a truly interesting story of its own. The huge park boasts two large lakes and its own resident herd of deer, which roam freely around the park. THE GARDENS The gardens are open daily and are completely free to enter. This is an excellent place to get close to the house, and imagine what it must be like inside. The gardens are enclosed within walls and are split into various different sections. The Japanese Garden is possibly the most interesting of the different gardens here. Maud, the 2nd Countess, created this garden in the early 1900's, which is built around the site of an ancient quarry. The main features within the Japanese Garden are its water features and bridges. There are also many Japanese trees here including Weeping Birch. Other gardens include the Informal Garden, which has recently undergone some restoration work, and the Formal Terraces. Scattered all around the gardens there are several stone figures, some of which are believed to date back to the early 1600's. There was formerly a maze within the gardens, which was removed in the early 1900's when the grounds were renovated. Thanks to a millennium project grant this original maze has been replanted, but at the moment the hedges are only about 3 feet (one metre) high. This does however look like an interesting future challenge. One of the most interesting features within the gardens is the Bear Pit. Watson and Pritchett designed this in the early 1800's. This Bear Pit was once the home of a Bear whose keeper lived in one of the nearby cottages. Within its design it incorporates a Jacobean doorway which was removed from the main house in about 1630. Obviously the pit is now empty but it is possible to climb inside it, down some steep steps, which leads you to the Japanese Garden below. THE GARDEN CENTRE This is situated on the site where the Kitchen Garden's of the house used to be. These Kitchen Gardens were created in the late 1700's to provide a fresh supply of fruit and vegetables, as well as fresh cut flowers for the house. This Garden Centre was established over 25 years ago and has proved to be a popular attraction for visitors. There is also a craft shop, café, and a pet shop within the same complex. GETTING THERE Wentworth Woodhouse is situated in South Yorkshire, just a few miles to the west of Barnsley, near the town of Elsecar. It is most easily reached by car by leaving the M1 Motorway at junction 35. From here turn right, sign-posted Hoyland and continue about 1 mile (1.6KM) until you reach the B6090 sign-posted Elsecar. From here Wentworth Woodhouse is well sign-posted. The journey time by car from the Motorway is only around 5 minutes. If you are visiting by public transport then two different buses serve Wentworth village. The 227 Rotherham to Barnsley bus runs every hour, and the 44 Lea Brook service also serves Wentworth Village, although less frequently. Wentworth Village is a few minutes walk from Wentworth Woodhouse, but the village should not be overlooked, as it is one of the most picturesque villages in the area. The nearest train station is at Elsecar, about 1.5 miles (2KM) from Wentworth village. Local trains serve Elsecar station from Barnsley, Sheffield, Leeds and Huddersfield. MY THOUGHTS ON WENTWORTH WOODHOUSE As a child I probably visited this place about once a year, usually during the summer months, so obviously this whole area has very fond memories for me. As an adult I have visited this place less frequently but a recent visit (my first for visit in about 4 years) has certainly re-kindled my interest in the place. I love the vast open spaces and despite the huge numbers of people that can sometimes be there, it seems that there is always somewhere to have a stroll about where you can get away from the crowds. However the best thing about this place is that it is not only within a short drive from where I live it is also completely free to visit, although I do usually leave having spent a small fortune in the garden centre. I would definitely recommend this place as a cheap day out if the weather is fine and you want some exercise and fresh air. Finally, of even greater interest and curiosity to me is the thought that there may also be a possible link with my own ancestors and the Wentworth Woodhouse estate. This is yet to be clarified, but having traced my family tree back to the 1600's I have found several of my ancestors are Watsons from Wentworth Village, and the house and estate employed many of these people. Maybe it is just coincidence as it is not an uncommon surname, or maybe they were a part of a pauper side of the family, who had to work for a living. I may never know, but it is certainly an interesting thought. Who knows I may one day even stake my claim to this place!