Historic England stepped in to help Rotherham stately home Wentworth Woodhouse when it discovered an unexpected £370,000 heritage repair bill.
The Grade I listed mansion, owned since 2017 by a charitable trust, is undergoing a massive restoration - one of the largest current heritage projects in the UK.
Over £7.2 million of crucial repairs to its badly leaking roof are now nearing completion.But after work started, heritage specialists discovered intricate Georgian cornices, 18 metres above the ground, were crumbling away.
Historic England has stepped into the breach with a grant of £224,000 to replace over 90 linear metres of the ornate sandstone and limestone cornice, which runs around the roofline of the mansion’s Palladian East Front.
Large sections of stone are coming loose, smaller ones have already fallen off and water is seeping in, causing further damage and posing a potential risk to people below.
“We were dismayed to discover the cornice was in a much worse state than anticipated,” said Sarah McLeod, CEO of Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust.
“Although small in comparison to the vast swathes of roof we have made safe, it was a big hurdle because we had no money for it.
“We needed to act before the £1.1m scaffold facilitating the mansion’s roof work begins to be taken down from May onwards.
“Waiting months to secure grants would have meant re-erecting the scaffold and doubling the budget.”
The timeline was tight, but the Trust managed to raise £359,000 of the £368,719 target within months.
One of its volunteers, former company secretary Jonathan Robinson, wrote his first ever bid-writing for the Trust and secured £10,000 from the Freshgate Trust Foundation, a grant-making charity established in 1941 by Sheffield’s Harry Brearley, discoverer of stainless steel.
A £50,000 pledge came from an anonymous donor and the Leche Trust, which supports historic conservation, awarded £5,000. The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation, set up by the Brammalls after the sale of Doncaser-based Keepmoat, donated £70,000.
“We are enormously grateful to all who rallied to the cause, but particularly to Historic England, who donated almost two thirds of our target sum,” said Sarah McLeod.
“We see the organisation as a crucial partner in our huge restoration task. It has already awarded us two grants of £30,000 to enable us to draw up plans to develop our Camellia House, Riding School and Stables and its York office have been our expert advisors for the last two years.”
Historic England’s Chief Executive Duncan Wilson OBE commented: “We’ve been working closely with Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust to help secure the future of this magnificent Georgian building and are passionate about seeing it restored to its former glory for the benefit of generations to come. “We’re delighted to be able to offer financial aid to fund the urgent repairs, as well as continue to help shape Wentworth Woodhouse’s future in our role as the Trust’s expert advisors.”