VISIONARY plans to transform Wentworth Woodhouse into a world-class visitor attraction and put Rotherham on the map are to be unveiled at Downing Street.
The charitable trust which now owns the Grade I-listed Georgian masterpiece will be launching its Masterplan at a Downing Street reception this evening.
The bold plan aims to make Wentworth Woodhouse as famous as in its 18th century heyday, when it was on a par with Chatsworth House and Blenheim Palace.
Its unveiling comes two years after Chancellor Philip Hammond awarded a grant of £7.6 million to Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust in his Autumn 2016 Statement to pay for emergency roof repairs.
The 220-page masterplan spells out the chosen options for development and follows a year-long consultation with heritage experts, the management of other historic houses and 1,500 members of the public.
They include reviving the glazed Camellia House, improving disabled access, turning the disused stables into a first-class wedding venue and adding cafe facilities.
Visitors will be able to witness work as it takes place and talk to restoration teams on hard-hat tours giving access to the roof.
“The Chancellor’s invitation for us to unveil our plans is testament to the huge national significance of what is arguably Britain’s greatest restoration project for a generation, and its solid cross-party support,” said WWPT chair Julie Kenny.
“The masterplan is the start of an exciting journey, a catalyst for change for the people whose lives the trust touches and the communities we serve.
“For three centuries the house was the hub of social and economic life across South Yorkshire and we intend to make it so once again.”
Work on the Big House over the past 18 months has gone beyond patching up the leaky roof.
The biggest change has been in staffing levels, with a 19-strong team now in place and including commercial operations manager Mark Williamson, formerly in the same post at the National Civil War Centre, catering manager Joe Tomlinson and marketing and communications officer Hannah Pearson, who previously worked for the National Trust at Knole in Kent, and Tracie Midgley, who has been appointed wedding and events officer.
An army of 100 volunteers has also been recruited.
Sarah McLeod, chief executive of WWPT, said: “Our masterplan will not only restore a national asset, it will regenerate a community.
“As this once great house rises again, it will be both an economic driver and a world-class tourism attraction.
“It will improve the lives of people in Rotherham, one of the most socially-deprived areas of the UK, by providing training in construction, catering and customer services and creating jobs.
“It’s an exciting time.
“Now we have a clear and concise vision, work can begin to make things happen.
“The masterplan will underpin all our funding applications and our bid to find support from the private sector across the world.”
See this Friday’s Advertiser for an in-depth look at how the masterplan will come to life - and exclusive pictures of the current sorry state of this faded icon.