South Yorkshire’s Lost Palace
Once the centre of some of the county’s most powerful dynasties, South-Yorkshire’s long-lost contribution to the history of country-estates and national politics is finally being unearthed in a combined project to restore Britain’s largest stately home to public viewing.
The history of this significant structure has been long underappreciated, with many local residents of Wentworth even being unaware of its existence. Fortunately, the Baroque-cross-Palladian styled building has been opened to public viewing since the takeover of the property by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust in partnership with the National Trust this year. This association has been established in preparation for a multi-million pound restoration committed to returning Wentworth Woodhouse to its former glories.
Inspired by competition arising out of a family feud, the first great-house built at the site was a baroque palace begun in the early 1700s. However, by the time of its completion a second, more fashionable house was already being planned in the now popular Palladian style. This second iteration was constructed adjacent to its predecessor and the Wentworth family continued to improve the structure throughout the eighteenth century. It was during this time that the Second Marquis of Rockingham, Charles Watson-Wentworth, twice-became prime-minister and pulled the centre of national politics to South-Yorkshire.
It was eventually passed to the Fitzwilliam family via the nephew of Charles Wentworth in the late- eighteenth century, who oversaw its survival through the Industrial Revolution with huge investments in coal. During this period it was repeatedly visited by various members of the royal family, until, in 1947 the nationalisation of collieries forced the Fitzwilliam dynasty to lease the estate to the local council. It was consequently transformed into a girls’ sports school before being sold by the family in 1979 and fading into obscurity.
However, this local historical gem was recognised on Channel 4 last weekend when it was perused by Tony Robinson and his team of camera-laden remote control drones. As part of the second series wherein Robinson investigates British landscapes from new perspectives, Channel 4’s drone-led adventure continues to asses Britain’s oft-overlooked or inaccessible structures from above. Wentworth House, ‘South-Yorkshire’s biggest-kept secret’, was given opening place in Sunday evening’s episode. Stretching almost twice as long as Buckingham Palace, Robinson deployed his drones around the Grade I listed building to assess this magnificent structure in its entirety. From the underground ponds built to contain fresh fish at the bequest of the families’ gastronomic whims, across over 300 of its rooms, and a brief insight into the treasures this monolith of British history has so closely guarded for three centuries.
Fortunately, the Baroque-cross-Palladian styled building has been opened to public viewing since the takeover of the property by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust in partnership with the National Trust this year. The Preservation Trust is also undertaking a multi-million pound redevelopment project to restore the country-estate to its former glories.While this redevelopment goes on, members of the public are finally welcomed into the Wentworth fold with the opportunity to visit the property on private tours and stroll around its vast gardens, which showcase such architectural treats as the ‘Doric Lodge’, ‘Rockingham Mausoleum’ and the ‘Needle’s Eye’, a 14 meter-high sandstone block pyramid, still peppered with musket bullet marks.
For more information, and to book a tour of Wentworth Woodhouse, go to: