Monday, March 27, 2017

News: Wentworth Woodhouse deal done

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The Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT) has concluded the acquisition of Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham for £7m.

The deal includes one of the UK's most interesting and important Grade 1 listed country houses, its outstanding collection of classical statuary and the surrounding grounds of 83 acres.

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

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 efforts to secure the house were given national prominence when the Chancellor of the Exchequer pulled a rabbit out of the hat in his 2016 Autumn Statement by announcing a £7.6m Government grant towards urgent repairs.

A grant of £3.5m from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) has been confirmed, providing the Trust with the final piece of the financial jigsaw needed to purchase the property.

A previous deal to sell the property to an investor, fell through.

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The Government grant is subject to the approval of a sustainable business case for a secure future of "the big house." As well as welcoming visitors to the richly decorated rooms in the house, WWPT's longer-term plan is to: restore the gardens with the help of volunteers; attract local businesses to work in offices to be created in the stables; and work with local people to explore and describe its exceptionally rich history, telling some of the many colourful stories associated with the house.

Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch said: "The UK's heritage is world renowned for its unique variety and Wentworth Woodhouse is a fantastic example of our historic architecture that deserves to be protected for the future. This Government funding will not only help preserve the building for visitors to enjoy, but it will also be a vital link in the community, creating a business hub and jobs that will benefit the local area."
Julie Kenny, Chair of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT), added: "This is the culmination of five years very hard work and has been made possible by the support of many different charities, government bodies and individuals, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is great news for the people of Rotherham and for everyone who cares about historic buildings.

"We are grateful to the Newbold family for their part in ensuring the survival of the house, and to the funding bodies who have made the transfer possible."

These include the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Monument Trust, Sir Siegmund Warburg's Voluntary Settlement, the J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, Art Fund, together with donations from the Fitzwilliam Amenity Trust and Lady Juliet Tadgell. The Trust has been given significant support by Historic England, the Architectural Heritage Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The Trust will also receive invaluable support and guidance from the National Trust for a period of three years.



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Kenny added: "All these contributors share our determination to give Wentworth Woodhouse a secure future, so it can play a part in the economic and cultural regeneration of Rotherham and the wider South Yorkshire region.

"We would like to send our appreciation to John Healey MP who helped open doors for discussions with Ministers and civil servants. We also appreciate the important cross party support from John Healey and Robert Jenrick MP who helped us put the Trust's case personally to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Above all we are grateful to the Chancellor who shares our enthusiasm for the house, and who announced a special allocation of £7.6m for repairs in his Autumn Statement in 2016. This will enable work to start this year."

Under the ownership of the WWPT, the restoration and development will provide jobs, stimulate local employment and open the property to the public on a regular basis. The North wing is set to host a huge range of weddings and events and the stables will become home to dynamic small businesses. Within the 18th century house and outbuildings more than a dozen apartments and cottages will be restored as lets for holiday makers.

The aim is preserve the house and grounds on a long term sustainable basis and raise funds for repairs and other essential works. The total cost of repairs could be over £50m. Parts of Wentworth Woodhouse will continue to be open to public while phased repairs continue.


Ros Kerslake, chief executive of National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: "Wentworth Woodhouse is an incredibly important piece of our national heritage, which is why the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund agreed £3.5m funding that has now helped secure its future for the nation. As well as ensuring the house and grounds are open to the public, the Trust's ambitious plans will create jobs, apprenticeships, training and volunteering opportunities for many years to come."

Wentworth Woodhouse website
WWPT website

Images: WWPT / Savills


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