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Wentworth Woodhouse was my home!
Wentworth Woodhouse (Wentworth)
Member Name: kappari
Wentworth Woodhouse (Wentworth)
Date: 17/05/09, updated on 17/05/09 (4807 review reads)
Advantages: Beautiful mansion in parkland setting
Disadvantages: Cannot see inside the house
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.)
Summary: Well worth a visit to appreciate its grandeur
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