Friday, November 6, 2015

News: Wentworth Woodhouse trust hopes to work with new owners

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Groups hoping to save Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham are hopeful of working alongside the new owners of the historic Grade I listed mansion house.

Agents, Savills have confirmed that terms had been agreed for the largest privately-owned house in Europe with the Lake House Group, an investment company which has its headquarters in Hong Kong.

The Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT) began fundraising last year and raised the necessary £7m in pledges to buy the mansion, 83 acres of grounds, complete with all the statues and protected contents acquired by the Newbold family when they bought the house in 1998.

Having agreed the target purchase figure with the Newbold family, a final offer was reconfirmed to Savills last week. Funding included a £3.5m grant offer from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Now, Savills have instead agreed terms with the Lake House Group but the trust and conservation group, Save Britain's Heritage (SAVE), are hopeful that the new owners will continue to work on their plans for the preservation of the house and grounds.

The initial SAVE plan was drawn up with leading country house experts and entrepreneurs and includes continuing to offer tours to the public which would be carried out by the National Trust, using the building for events, creating holiday lets and apartments for rent, and converting the stables for use by enterprising businesses.

Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE, said that the proposed new owners "have been in touch with us, saying that they wish to work with us, carrying out our plan.

"Our proposal would have secured this wonderful property for the nation on a long term sustainable basis. SAVE and the new Trust have carefully examined all the challenges this property presents, including £42m of structural repairs and a highly complex claim for subsidence damage from the Coal Authority. Our offer is not dependent on survey or planning permission as offers may be."

The WWPT is chaired by Julie Kenny, chair and chief executive of Rotherham-based Pyronix Limited and a supporting commissioner at Rotherham Council.

Plans for the sustainable future of Wentworth Woodhouse include using the north wing and former student refectory as a dining hall/events venue; creating offices for small businesses in the impressive stable block; and around 15 residential units or holiday lets are proposed in the south wing, the upper floors of the main mansion and the side courtyards of the stable court.

Pledges totalling £3.5m were received from the Monument Trust, the Art Fund, Sir Siegmund Warburg's Voluntary Settlement and the John Paul Getty Jnr Trust as well as to the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund for an offer of £3.5m towards purchase.

Wentworth Woodhouse website
WWPT website
Save Britain's Heritage website

Images: Savills

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