Wentworth Woodhouse: From Grandeur to Disrepair and Rescue
The story of Wentworth Woodhouse, one of England’s grandest country houses, with reportedly the longest façade, is the story of the rise and fall, abandonment, and ultimately rescue of an architectural masterpiece.
In his lecture, historian Oliver Gerrish will talk about the history of the house, illustrate the incredible interiors and exteriors, and explore the house’s layering of architectural styles. Wentworth Woodhouse is essentially two sizeable country houses connected back-to-back, in two different styles. The first, a brick Baroque West Front, was built in 1725-1728 for Thomas Watson-Wentworth, 1st Marquess of Rockingham.
The second “extension,” a sandstone Palladian East Front, was built in 1731- 1750 for Thomas Watson-Wentworth, the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham and twice Prime Minister. His interiors included the stone-pillared entrance hall supporting a magnificent double-height marble saloon. Wings were also built and the 2nd Marquess made the 365- room house the center of Whig politics. His nephew, William Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl, inherited the house in 1782.
After coal was discovered on the estate, the Fitzwilliams would rise to be one of the wealthiest families in England and they filled it with artistic masterpieces. After the death of the 8th Earl in 1949, the family left the house and sold most of the collection. During the following decades Wentworth Woodhouse passed through a variety of owners, including the local Borough Council, schools, and private individuals.
However, past coal mining up to 10ft from the house’s walls caused structural damage, while the 250,000 sq. feet of space–or what Art News called “a triumphantly unmanageable house”–was too big to maintain. Eventually the house ended up on the World Monument Fund’s “At Risk” list. Fortunately, the house was rescued by a newly formed preservation trust that is performing extensive repairs and is intent on saving this country house treasure.
Mr. Gerrish will tell the remarkable story of the rescue of Wentworth Woodhouse, discuss its history, and detail the preservation efforts seen in the grand staterooms now open to the public.