2016 World Monuments Watch
Wentworth Woodhouse, the largest house in the United Kingdom, was built and expanded to a colossal scale by successive generations of owners in the eighteenth century, to the designs of many of the most celebrated architects and craftsmen of the day. Behind the Palladian east façade—which lays claim to be the longest in the country—lie suites of lavish state rooms, decorated with first-rate finishes of marble, scagliola, ornate plasterwork, and decorated paneling. Under Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham (1730-1782), who served two brief terms as Prime Minister of Great Britain, Wentworth Woodhouse became a hub of political and social life in the north of England, befitting the architectural transformation that was begun by his father.
The grounds of the estate were mined for coal during the shortage that followed the end of World War II and the damage caused by this gesture of antagonism towards the house’s aristocratic owners was the first step in a steady process of deterioration and decline. Many decades later, and after passing through many subsequent owners, the house is now one of the most important historic buildings at risk in the United Kingdom. In spite of its prominence, it remains understudied and underappreciated due to its limited access to the public.
Wentworth Woodhouse is currently on sale, and a coalition of advocates is mounting a bid to purchase the house on behalf of a building preservation trust. The trust’s plan would see the most significant interior spaces of the house opened for visit, while other areas would be turned into residential units, and yet other spaces would be used commercially as venues for hire. These investments would provide much-needed revenue for the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, as restoration of the house is sure to be a massive undertaking, currently estimated to cost more than £40 million. Growing interest in the fate of this landmark of British architectural heritage reflects the need to ensure its preservation for the public benefit. The 2016 World Monuments Watch supports the active effort to raise the funds to purchase the property and secure the site’s future.
Since the Watch
In November 2016 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the allocation of £7.6 million for urgent repairs and the implementation of a vision for the reuse of the house. In March 2017 the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust announced the purchase of the building with funds collected from grants, pledges, and donations. The trust also announced a twenty-year comprehensive restoration plan that will be implemented while keeping the building open to the public.