THE woman in charge of reviving crumbling Wentworth Woodhouse admits she did think twice before accepting the job but insists she is relishing her massive new challenge.
Sarah McLeod started work as the chief executive of Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust last month after 15 years leading the Cromford Mills complex in Derbyshire to World Heritage Site status.
She confessed: “I did have a bit of a wobble before saying yes.
“A job with a World Heritage Site takes some beating but I think I have one more big project in me.
“I looked at a lot of opportunities and none of them really appealed to me. But when this job came along it was too good to miss.”
Ms McLeod admitted that the overall size of the task ahead was overwhelming but added: “Regardless of the size of the project, the considerations are the same and the approach is the same.
“It’s just a case of breaking it down into bitezsize pieces and working our way through.”
New CEO of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, Sarah McLeod, chats to Advertiser news editor, Michael Upton. 171375-11
The Derbyshire resident said she expected to work long days and evenings on the Wentworth project, especially given the need to get out, meet people and gather as many views as possible, and intended to move to the area in the winter.
Ms McLeod said as well as continuing tours of the open parts of the house, the trust will launch hard-hat tours of the areas under restoration, which could even stretch to giving the disabled a view of roof repairs from a special hoist.
She is keen to include as many people as possible in the project, whether as visitors of volunteers, and disabled access will include installing a new lift system.
A masterplan to be drawn up over the next six months is aimed at mapping out how the restoration and tourist business will each progress and establishing an overall “vision” for the overall project, something Ms McLeod said had been lacking so far.
Ms McLeod said she was keen for the ongoing story of Wentworth Woodhouse to “connect” with people across Rotherham and beyond and to gather as many views as possible.
“So far all the ideas have been put forward by business people,” she said.
“This project has never properly been out to public consultation before so it’s important to speak to people from all sorts of groups, including hard-to-reach groups, ethnic groups, disabled groups and the whole of the wider community.”
The enthusiasm for Wentworth’s revival was huge, Ms McLeod said, adding: “For every email I finish another 15 have popped into my inbox.
“People are getting in touch from all over, wanting to offer services, asking for a job or simply sharing their memories.
“It is fantastic that the project has attracted so much goodwill and support.
“I think people are fascinated because it has been inaccesible and shuttered up for so long.”
With up to £150 million needed, fundraising is going to be vital, and a fund-raising strategy is being pulled together “with everything from major grand balls to people shaking buckets in the street,” Ms McLeod said.
She added: “It will be ongoing throughout the project and every penny really does count. “Even giving a tenner makes a difference because it all stacks up.”