FINALLY, a deal for the sale of Wentworth Woodhouse has got over the line.
The Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust has announced the completion of the purchase of the mansion from the Newbold family and can now begin £42 million of repairs and renovations to turn the historic building into an even more impressive tourist destination.
Some may say: “So what, it’s just a massive house that has always been lived in by rich people and has no relevance to the people of Rotherham.”
Taken on face value as the simple sale of an 18th century longhouse, they might have a point.
But it’s about much more than that.
Rotherham has been in the grip of economic decline for decades, but a few green shoots of recovery are now visible.
The town centre Masterplan — and understandably people are sceptical as such schemes are familiar ground — is due to be published in the next couple of months, plans for the Gulliver’s theme park are well under way and the Advanced Manufacturing Park is attracting big names from all over the world.
The development of Wentworth Woodhouse will provide another must-see attraction for tourists, which, added to offerings in nearby Sheffield, will make South Yorkshire a real destination, with Rotherham reaping the benefits.
The preservation trust now aims to step up repairs and conservation work on the mansion’s 300-plus rooms and welcome visitors to the home, transform the stables into offices and restore its 83 acres of grounds and gardens with the help of volunteers.
They hope to open up large areas of the house to the public, use a former student refectory as an events centre and create up to 18 houses and flats to let as holiday accommodation or short-lease homes.
Trust chairman Julie Kenny is right to hail the deal — which sees the purchase of the property from the Newbold family, who have owned it since 1999 — as “great news for the people of Rotherham and for everyone who cares about historic buildings.”
On top of bringing cultural and economic benefits to the region in its own right, the opening up of Wentworth Woodhouse is likely to attract new business to the area, and, let’s face it, it is an area that badly needs it.
Let us hope the project proves to be the success we all believe it will be.