VIDEO: Step back in time at Wentworth Woodhouse's Regency Elegance ball

By Adele Forrest | 01/10/2019

VIDEO: Step back in time at Wentworth Woodhouse's Regency Elegance ball
Reporter Adele in the famous Whistlejacket room

BULL in a china shop, baby elephant — these are just a couple of the phrases my dad has used to describe my lack of grace.

So I jumped at the chance to make my old man proud and become a lady for the day at Wentworth Woodhouse.

I was invited to the stately home to get acquainted with life in the Regency and Georgian era ahead of a special ball the Grade I-listed mansion is hosting this month.

For the first time in over 200 years, Wentworth Woodhouse will be filled with music, food and dancing from the 18th century for its Night of Regency Elegance ball on Saturday, October 19.

And if, like me, you’ve watched period dramas and always dreamed of trying on the exquisite costumes and experiencing how the English aristocracy lived, this could be your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

On the evening, footmen will greet each guest at the mansion’s Baroque-style west front entrance after a horse-drawn carriage ride through the gardens.

This unique event is part of Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust’s aim to make the house more accessible since taking ownership of it in 2017.

Guests are being encouraged to wear period dress — or black tie for the less adventurous.

So myself and some willing Wentworth staff were kitted out by Sheffield-based Molly Limpet’s Theatrical Emporium, who will be supplying outfits for the evening.

Tour guide Mark Barthrop swapped his fleece for a tailcoat and accompanied me around the house — and I have to say I felt “reyt posh”.

Mark said: “I’ve never done anything like this before, it’s fantastic.

“We do get comments from visitors expressing a wish for us guides to be dressed in period costume, though.”

Volunteer researcher Jonathan Addy also stepped back in time to enjoy wandering through the house grounds in costume — and even customised his own shoes with a buckle to give a period effect!

My first costume was a beautiful hand-made Regency-era dress in emerald with an empire line, which helped to cover all manner of lumps and bumps. 

Its flattering design could come in handy on the evening of the ball as guests will enjoy a four-course dinner menu, which reflects the cuisine of the era.

Molly Limpet’s manager Nick Hedley finished my look off with a pair of very comfy golden slip-on shoes with a small, square heel.

Stilettos aren’t permitted on the Marble Saloon’s delicate floor, where dancing will be encouraged as musicians will be playing period tunes and a professional dance toupe will be inviting guests to learn Georgian and Regency-era dances. 

Jonathan described the spectacularly-tiled state room — which features in the new Downton Abbey film — as “world-renowned”.

In 1835, a young Princess (soon to be Queen) Victoria was entertained there and, in 1912, ballerina Anna Pavlova danced for King George V and Queen Mary during their royal tour of Yorkshire.

Dinner will be served in the neighbouring Whistlejacket room, which doubled as Buckingham Palace in last year’s Oscar-winning Winston Churchill biopic, Darkest Hour.

This room required a more dramatic outfit, so Nick helped me up my game with a formal Georgian costume, complete with two underskirts and panniers, which widened the dress over my hips.

Nick informed me that back in the day, panniers helped to hide all kinds of things in womens’ dresses — as I walked through Wentworth’s historic hallways, my overactive imagination went into overdrive!

This step back in time was a wonderfully surreal experience which reminded me how lucky we are to have such an important part of history on our doorstep.

You don’t need to wait around for a prince with a slipper to go to the ball — you can book a ticket for the evening, priced at £75 on 01226 351161 or through the events page at https://wentworthwood house.org.uk, where you can also find details of how to hire outfits like the ones I tried out.