Tuesday, March 28, 2017

News: Wentworth deal "a triumph against all the odds"

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The acquisition of Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham for £7m by a charitable trust represents a "third way" in the chequered ownership history of the Grade I listed mansion.

Despite the best efforts of two public sector owners and two private owners, of the UK's most interesting and important country houses has ultimately proved too expensive for either the public or the private sector to maintain. In 2012, working with entrepreneurs Kit Martin and Roger Tempest, SAVE Britain's Heritage (SAVE), the campaign group for historic buildings, therefore devised a third way, which involves a variety of compatible uses generating income to keep the listed buildings in repair, with the mansion placed in a charitable trust to maximise fundraising potential.

It culminated in the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT) finally completing the deal for the house, follies and 83 acres from the Newbold family after five years of complex work and lawyers advising that the deal was so complicated it could never normally be done.

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Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE, said: "This is a triumph against all the odds. It is a deal which the lawyers advised was so complicated it could never normally be done. It has taken five years of sustained hard work to secure support, but we have learnt over 40 years that however hopeless or impossible the battle for a great historic building may seem we should never give up.

"Huge thanks are due to Julie Kenny, chair of Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, and her trustees who against precipitous deadlines have secured all the complex agreements needed to complete purchase.

"We also thank the Newbold family for their help, cooperation and patience while the rescue plan has been drawn up and the necessary funding secured. Clifford Newbold was the first to open this great house to visitors giving huge pleasure and excitement to everyone who came."

Earlier the house was acquired in 1989 by Mr Wensley Haydon-Baillie who provided a £10m endowment and carried out repairs.

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After World War II Wentworth Woodhouse was offered by the 8th Earl Fitzwilliam to the National Trust but was too large and expensive for the Trust to take on. Surrounded by open-cast coal mining the house was saved from demolition as a PT teacher training college sponsored by a member of the Fitzwilliam family Lady Mabel.

Now the National Trust is supporting the Trust's plans for the house and has promised £750,000 over the first three years of opening. 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. The WWPT's plans include using the North wing to host a huge range of weddings and events and the stables (pictured, below) as units for 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.
Previous owners, the Newbold family said in a statement: "Wentworth Woodhouse has been an important part of our lives for nearly two decades and although there is some sadness in having to say goodbye, our greatest wish,which was always to see that its future was secure, has at last been fulfilled.

"We would like to publicly express our thanks to all the staff and volunteers who have worked so hard and with such dedication to help us save the house over the years. Additionally, we are extremely grateful to the public for their overwhelming support in our efforts to secure the future of this national treasure. We wish the trust, the staff and everyone involved in the forthcoming restoration every success in the preservation of this fabulous house with which we fell in love with so many years ago.

"As a family, we very much look forward to seeing the house continue to recover after suffering so much abuse in the 20th century. There has always been tremendous local support for the house and it is heartening to know that the project on which we have all been working for so long is finally safe and secure."

Wentworth Woodhouse website
WWPT website
SAVE website

Images: Savills


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