Tuesday, March 20, 2018

News: Vital repair work at Wentworth Woodhouse

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Emergency repair work is underway at Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham as the owners look ahead to the future use of the historic Grade I listed mansion.

The Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT) concluded the acquisition of the largest privately-owned house in Europe for £7m last year. The aim of the trust is to preserve the house and grounds on a long term sustainable basis and raise funds for repairs and other essential works.

At an event for the Rotherham Pioneers in 2017, Sarah McLeod, chief executive of the WWPT, presented a roof plan of the "big house" which highlighted in red which parts of the roof needed urgent repairs - all of the roof areas were coloured red.

Local experts, Furniss & Sons, which is based at the stable block at Wentworth Woodhouse, has been on site for a number of months and leading conservation architects, Donald Insall Associates, have been appointed to lead on the first major phase of repairs.

Plans have recently been submitted for listed building consent for the replacement, alterations and repairs to sections of roof.

Historic England is overseeing spending of a £7.6m grant funding for emergency repairs through its repair grants for heritage at risk but it may take double the initially estimated £42m to get Wentworth Woodhouse up to full use.

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The first phase of substantive repair identifies areas of the the south-east wing (known as "Bedlam" from its time as part of Lady Mabel College) and the riding school because they are in very bad/poor condition and the works required are relatively straightforward.

The second phase focuses on the repair of the centre of the east front, chapel, oak staircase and grand staircase, protecting the interiors of the highest significance.

The submitted plans highlight the work that needs to be done. This includes repairing damaged slating, fixing lead linings which are failing and allowing water ingress and addressing modern alterations that contain asbestos materials.

A spokesperson for Donald Insall Associates said: "The Bedlam wing is largely unoccupied, particularly to the upper floors due to neglect. Once the rooms are restored and made habitable they will help towards the sustainability of the project and running of the house. Before any restoration to the interiors begins the roof first needs to be made water-tight whilst maintaining breathability.

"The Chapel remains for its original purpose and is not used on a daily basis. It remains as a ceremonial room with the possibility to hold weddings and events in the future. Again, we are conducting similar works to the slate roof and drainage to make this possible.

"The Riding School holds a number of opportunities for revenue purposes. In areas of the Stable Block are workshops and studio letted units. We will be working on the South block which is in a poor state of repair. "

Looking ahead, the WWPT is undergoing a period of masterplanning and developing a long term strategy for Wentworth Woodhouse. An online survey is underway as the trust looks to reflect the views of a range of community groups and individuals.

Initial plans showed proposals for the north wing to host a huge range of weddings and events with the stables becoming home to dynamic small businesses. Within the 18th century house and outbuildings more than a dozen apartments and cottages could be restored as lets for holiday makers.

Documenting the works so far, Furniss & Sons have been repairing areas of the roof, sweeping chimneys, and carrying out works to the impressive portico.

Wentworth Woodhouse website
Furniss & Sons website

Images: Furniss & Sons

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