Monday, April 9, 2018

News: Sponsor a slate at Wentworth Woodhouse

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With urgent work underway to repair the roof at Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham, a unique fundraising opportunity has been announced as the overall restoration bill could easily reach £200m.

Rothbiz reported last month that local experts, Furniss & Sons, which is based at the stable block at the big house, has been on site for a number of months.

Today marks the start of the replacement of 14,000 tiles.

Historic England is overseeing spending of a £7.6m grant funding for emergency repairs through its repair grants for heritage at risk but the owners, the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT), estimates it will need up to £200m to restore the house to its former glory.

Hand-prints and messages dating back to 1806 have been discovered by workers in leadwork on top of the roof, under the slate and across the roof beams. There are many more still to be found, believes master builder Paul Furniss, who since discovering them has been researching the tradition, and the lives of the graffiti-makers.

Inspired by the findings, the WWPT charity is appealing to supporters to leave their own marks - by sponsoring a slate destined for the roof.

The Mark Your Mark in History appeal was launched last week and for a minimum donation of £50, slates will be etched with handprints, dates and personal messages, echoing those left over the centuries. They will go onto the roof over the stunning State Rooms on the East Front as part of a two year restoration project using funding awarded from the Chancellor's 2016 budget.

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Sarah McLeod, CEO of WWPT, said: "These messages will last the test of time, just like those we have uncovered, and the income they bring will be a major boost for our funds. We hope to raise £250,000 by finding 5,000 slate sponsors."

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.

Working at Wentowrth, Paul Furniss, the expert restorer from Furniss & Sons, has documented his findings on social media. He said: "I've made some fascinating discoveries. The earliest so far is from 1806. One was left in the 1830s by Solomon Salkeld, a Chesterfield man baptised in 1792 who became a painter for the Earl of Fitzwilliam and eventually emigrated to the USA.

"There are some from the 1920s and 1950s and I'm sure there are many more. Throughout history craftsmen have liked to leave their mark in buildings they worked on. I've left mine in a secret place in the house for someone to find one day.

"At some point I might even find the hand prints of my ancestors. My family were originally from Wentworth and were stone masons who built the stable block between 1762-1773, after the main house was built between 1725 and 1750."

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.

Short term plans involve the creation of four new jobs, new tours of the house cellars and the gardens, plans for a gift shop and revitalised cafe.

Wentworth Woodhouse website
Furniss & Sons website

Images: WWPT / Furniss & Sons

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