The speaker at the November meeting of East Markham WI was Steve Ash, a volunteer with the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, who gave a most enjoyable and informative illustrated talk on the history and current restoration of Wentworth Woodhouse. The house (or houses, as there are two buildings on the site) has been in the same family since the 16th century.
The Grade 1 listed Wentworth Woodhouse has, at over 600 feet, the longest frontage of any house in the country. The legend of a room or window for every day of the year, however, is not true; when selling the house in 1986, the estate agent’s prospectus stated 195 rooms above ground. Home to the Earls Fitzwilliam until the late 1940s, the house was leased to the Lady Mabel College of Physical Education, later part of Sheffield City Polytechnic.
In 1989 the house was sold into private hands, with the last private owner, Mr Newbould, carrying out some restoration. Following his death, the house was offered for sale and in February 2016 it was sold to the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust for £7 million. Later that year, the Chancellor announced that the Trust would receive a £7.6 million grant for restoration work. The first phase of restoration, the leaking roof over the central part of the house, has been completed using most of the grant, but there is still much work to be done by the Trust.
Steve showed images of both houses, with photos of the principle rooms, the work on the roof before and after restoration and some of the repairs still to be started. The gardens of the house have also been restored and, like the house, are open to visitors. Fundraising to cover the cost of further restoration and the day-to-day running of the property is essential and the house is used for events and as the setting for TV dramas and films. A small number of members had visited the house, but Steve pointed out that even those who had not had probably seen the house on TV or at the cinema in such productions as Pride and Prejudice, Mr Turner, Victoria, The Darkest Hour, Gentleman Jack and the Downton Abbey film. Steve told how green screens and CGI were used to create views from windows and that for the Downton Abbey ballroom scene, filmed in the Marble Saloon, a foam-like fabric and a lino / vinyl flooring, specially printed with the design of the floor it covered, were used to protect the delicate marble floor.
WI members provided and sold refreshments at the Milton Mausoleum Christmas Craft Fair. Soup, hot drinks and a selection of cakes sold out before the end of the afternoon. Thank you to all who made and provided items for sale and manned the stall throughout the day. In December, bric-a-brac was collected and sorted for a stall at the Church Christmas Fair; and it was Christmas Party time with a Pie and Pea Supper followed by dessert and entertainment from vocalist Jessica Mary Brett.
East Markham WI wishes all in the village and supporters from around the area a Happy New Year.