Built by the Watson family who became the Fitzwilliams (amazing what money can do) on the basis of vast revenues from their coal seams, the 300 room Wentworth Woodhouse with its 185m facade is an epic house and has an epic tale of family feuding. After the Second World War everything went belly up with the South Yorkshire family fortunes as, in a spirit of rebuilding the nation and a socialist disdain for the rich, the Minister of Fuel and Power, Mannie Shinwell, ordered that the whole estate be dug up for open cast coal mining. The mining went right up to the house with inevitable subsidence. When in 1948 the eighth earl was killed in a car crash alongside his lover, “Kick” Kennedy, sister of JFK, the house became Lady Mabel College of Further Education, the majestic Marble Hall, below, a gymnasium. Decline upon decline, until it was purchased in 1999 by architect Clifford Newbold, who died in April 2015. The house is still for sale
at £8m from Savills. Subsidence is still a problem. And one sale has fallen through. We visited on a dark day at the end of January, and in the drizzle the house still looks vast, grand and sadly, if one looks beyond that glorious facade, a tad neglected.
Postscript (4th February) And ever on the pulse as always .. a matter of days after I wrote the above comes the news that the property has been sold to, very good news here, the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust for £7m, half of which came from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. A spokesman for the Trust said, “The long-term strategy is for the public to visit and enjoy all the most interesting parts of the property while restoring the others for revenue-earning uses such as events and holiday lets with business units in the stables.”