Tuesday, June 11, 2019

News: Rotherham's determined Dame


Julie Kenny CBE has been made a Dame in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to heritage.

The self-made Rotherham businesswoman becomes a Dame Commander of the British Empire, the second-highest honour in the land, for her crucial role in securing the future of the Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham.

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire rewards public service and contributions to the arts, sciences, charities and welfare organisations.

Julie's passion drove the £7m purchase of the historic Grade I listed mansion in May 2017.

"I am amazed and humbled to receive this honour," said Julie, 61. "I was inspired by one of the greatest houses in the UK and I did not achieve this alone; there were many people that helped me along the way and this award recognises our joint achievements."

She described rescuing the house from decline as one of the most inspiring, yet hardest, challenges of her life.

"Many times I saw in people's eyes that they thought it could not be achieved. But my view is that nothing is impossible with time and energy and belief. And I passionately believed the house could become a beacon, its beauty drawing people from all of the world. I knew how proud that would make the people of Rotherham feel about their heritage again, and that jobs and skills could be created for young people.

"But the fight tested everything I had learned throughout my business life. It took hard work, stamina, focus and negotiation skills and above all the resolve to persevere and never to give up, even when the going got tough - and then extra tough."


Leaving her Sheffield home at 18, Julie travelled to the opposite end of the country and found a job as a junior secretary in a Cornish law firm. Ten years of part time study led to the second career as a lawyer.

Returning to South Yorkshire with a belief in a new security system, Julie set up Pyronix with her husband in 1986. Becoming a single mother of three on the break-up of her marriage, she grew Pyronix into an award-winning organisation supplying 65 countries. When she sold the company in 2016 its turnover was £25m. She was awarded a CBE in 2002 for her services to industry in Yorkshire and Humberside.

Following a successful campaign backed by SAVE British Heritage, the trust moved in to Wentworth Woodhouse and were met with a critical state of decay which was once grander than Chatsworth and hosted kings and queens. There were buildings riddled with asbestos, collapsed drains, endemic dry rot, leaking roofs and rotting timbers.

With just one phone line, a handful of committed staff and a single vacuum cleaner, it began the task of raising the phoenix from the ashes.

Now the famed East Front, arguably one of the longest in Europe, is completely shrouded in scaffolding and a three-phase Capital Works Programme is underway, carrying out vital repairs to protect important heritage assets.

With funding from the National Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Architectural Heritage Fund, WWPT now has 23 staff, over 100 volunteers and generates income from events, retail, catering, weddings, film and TV productions.

Julie added: "We are putting right the wrongs of past years for the future of our local community, and the nation. We will ensure the house's future is never threatened again."

Julie was nominated for the honour by Deborah Lamb, then Deputy Chief Executive at Historic England. She commented: "Saving one of the most impressive historic buildings in England would not have been possible without Julie Kenny's determination and commitment. She convinced a wide range of people to support Wentworth Woodhouse and basically made it impossible for them to say no."

Wentworth Woodhouse website

Images: WWPT


royherbert June 11, 2019 at 10:27 PM  

Well deserved, this self-made hard working lady is what epitomizes this country, and we are lucky to have her talents and dedication towards restoring Wentworth to its past glories and preserve a superb landmark for our town.

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