The future of one of the country’s greatest 18th century landscapes looks secure following discussions between the National Trust, Barnsley Council and The Northern College.
The three organisations are working together in order to secure the future of Wentworth Castle Gardens with a view to it reopening in summer 2019.
Discussions have been ongoing between all three organisations since the site closed in April 2017. The reopening would see the gardens and parkland – the only grade 1 listed park and garden in South Yorkshire – complement the cultural offer of museums and attractions in the region, and the National Trust intends to place the needs of the local community at the heart of the offer through a programme of events, activities, volunteering and employment.
Wentworth Castle Gardens was the home of Thomas Wentworth, whose ambitions for the site were brought to life in the 1740s. After falling into disrepair it underwent significant investment and was opened to the public in 2007 by the Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and others.
Subject to legal agreements being finalised, the National Trust plans to enter into a 25 year lease that will see them bring their wealth of experience in managing and conserving historic places. Already in the region, the charity looks after the World Heritage Site of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Nostell, Hardwick Hall and Clumber Park.
Working collaboratively as plans develop, the National Trust, Barnsley Council and The Northern College will be liaising with the local community and there’ll be lots of opportunities to use the site, discover new ways to enjoy Wentworth Castle Gardens again and get involved.
Joanna Royle, assistant director for the National Trust in the north, says:
“Wentworth Castle Gardens is such an important and beautiful place, and it is a vital green space for local communities.
We’re looking forward to building on the hard work of Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust at the site, whilst sharing the rich heritage and stories of the gardens and its creators. But above all, we want to ensure that everyone visiting next year will be made very welcome and once again be able to enjoy this as a place to explore, walk, relax, play and spend time together outdoors.
“We are delighted to be working together with Barnsley Council, The Northern College, and the local community to help safeguard it.”
Cllr Sir Steve Houghton CBE, leader of Barnsley Council, says:
“I’m really pleased to announce our partnership with the National Trust and Northern College that will see Wentworth Castle Gardens reopen to the public.
“It has always been our ambition to secure a sustainable future for this magnificent estate and our partnership with the National Trust does just that.
All partners are keen to reopen the site as soon as possible, and in the meantime, work will be carried out by the National Trust to prepare the visitor facilities, including a new catering and retail offer alongside an improved car park ahead of opening. Recruitment of staff and volunteers will also begin, with several core roles within the staff team being open to applicants from today.
Wentworth Castle Gardens (formerly known as Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park) was established in 1708 by Thomas Wentworth.
Thomas was disinherited from the prestigious family estate of Wentworth Woodhouse. He did not take this lightly, creating a phenomenal new landscape and house with a point to prove.
An evocative, interconnecting mix of 63 acres of gardens comprised of different landscapes features 16 listed structures. Some of the earliest monuments and follies in the country, they include the fairy-tale like “ancient ruins” of Stainborough Castle and remarkable Lady Mary Wortley Montague monument with its large bronze disc which shines like a beacon in the sunlight. They were purposely built to provide a highly visible show, and source of annoyance, to the rivals who had inherited Wentworth Woodhouse seven miles away.
Unusually for the time, these structures were dedicated to the monumental achievements of women including Minerva, the goddess of knowledge and the Lady Mary Wortley Montague monument who actively challenged unjust social attitudes towards Muslim women and introduced the smallpox vaccination.
The site was bought by Barnsley Corporation in 1948 after the estate fell into disrepair, but more recently, it opened to the public in May 2007 after the Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust. The Trust secured considerable external funding from various sources including £16m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the gift of the Parkland from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) for Phase 1 and a further £2,550k from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), together with around £400k from other sources for subsequent phases. This enabled the Trust to deliver impressive conservation improvements on the site.
Sadly, after 10 years of operation the gardens closed in 2017 due to demand on an unsustainable amount of public funding.
The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people who saw the importance of our nation’s heritage and open spaces, and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. More than 120 years later, these values are still at the heart of everything the charity does.
Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 780 miles of coastline and hundreds of special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
More than 26 million people visit every year, and together with 5.2 million members and over 61,000 volunteers, they help to support the charity in its work to care for special places for ever, for everyone.