Wednesday, November 23, 2016

News: £7.6m Government grant for Wentworth Woodhouse

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With seven days to spare, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pulled a rabbit out of the hat in his Autumn Statement by announcing a £7.6m Government grant towards urgent repairs to save Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham.

The largest privately-owned house in Europe was added to the 2016 World Monuments Watch which calls international attention to cultural heritage under threat around the globe.

The Newbold family, who have been in a long-running legal battle with the Coal Authority confirmed that they had decided to sell the historic Grade I listed mansion house at the end of 2014. With an asking price of in excess of £8m, a deal was confirmed in February 2016 with the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT) who have raised funds and developed a long term strategy for the future of the site.

The £7m pledged for the acquisition includes a £3.575m grant offer from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and grants from the Monument Trust, the Art Fund, Sir Siegmund Warburg's Voluntary Settlement and the John Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust. Pledges and donations have also been received from many individual members of the public.

Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, told the house: "I have deliberately avoided making this statement into a long list of individual projects being supported. But I am going to make one exception: I will act today, with just seven days to spare, to save one of the UK's most important historic houses: Wentworth Woodhouse near Rotherham.

"It is said to be the inspiration for Pemberley in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Wentworth Woodhouse is now at critical risk of being lost to future generations.

"A local effort has secured millions in funding – subject to the balance required being found by November 30th. So we will provide a £7.6m grant towards urgent repairs to safeguard this key piece of Northern heritage."

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The grant is subject to approval of a sustainable business case for the Grade I listed country house. The WWPT's business plan includes 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.

With a agreement with the WPPT, the National Trust has agreed to help by offering to take on responsibility for the public opening of the magnificent interiors, recently used for the ITV period drama, Victoria.

A detailed business plan commissioned by the National Trust has shown projected income and expenditure for the WWPT over twenty years. Forecasts show the WWPT will come into a surplus in the sixth year of operation.

Further money will be needed as extensive repairs will be phased over ten to 15 years allowing time for funds to be raised and the work to be carried out in phases while the property is opened to the public.

The claim for damages against the Coal Authority, for at least £100m, took a hit earlier this year. The latest round in the legal battle between the owners and the Coal Authority concluded that the owners have been unable to prove that damage to the historic property has been caused by recent mining subsidence.

John Healey MP, whose Wentworth and Dearne constituency includes "the big house" called the announcement, "welcome news."

Robert Jenrick, MP for Newark, worked with the local Rotherham MPs and the trust to bring the plight of the house to the attention of the Government. He said: "Wentworth Woodhouse will regenerate former coalfields of Rotherham and South Yorkshire and create an international tourist attraction for North."

Wentworth Woodhouse website

Images: Savills


1 comments:

Anonymous,  November 23, 2016 at 4:35 PM  

Excellent news. Losing this would have been a tragedy for the whole country.

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