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Photos | Restoration of Grade I-listed Wentworth Woodhouse

29 January 2020 | By Neil Gerrard

Emergency repairs to huge areas of the Grade I-listed Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham have been completed, protecting the Georgian building against the elements.

Work on the stately home, which was once one of the greatest houses in England before it fell into decline, has been split into two phases.

Roof light from the north roof is inspected by the construction team

Phase one's contractor Aura Conservation ended its work in December, having completely removed and re-slated roofs on the riding school and the mansion's chapel, restored the chapel's ceiling and replaced roof slates and repaired roof timbers on the mansion's Bedlam wing.

Heritage construction specialists Robert Woodhead has now been on site for a year, carrying out phase two work. The largest phase of the Treasury-funded emergency works project, phase two includes the replacement of roofs, plus repairs to high-level stonework, Georgian roof statues and urns.

A crane lifts the temporary roof into place

Since last summer, over 700 tonnes of scaffolding have surrounded the mansion’s Palladian East Front, supported a vast temporary roof made of plastic to enable roof repairs to be carried out.

A spokesperson for Donald Insall Associates, a historical architecture specialist employed on the project, said that there have been a number of unforeseen challenges. “This was due to the significant decay encountered and the historical significance of the buildings,” the spokesperson said. “Working closely with Historic England, we have tested our conservation and repair philosophy at every opportunity to ensure that the work we do now is appropriate and will last the tests of time.”

Historic England's Giles Proctor and Woodhead Group's Andy Stamford

While contractors were surprised to find the roofs they were stripping were in a relatively good condition, they also found a number of issues with roof timbers that meant structural support had to be introduced, explained senior site manager Andy Stamford, of Woodhead Group.

The north roof mainly required gutter repairs and replacement joints, the central roof required repairs and conservation of seven truss ends, replacement timber spas and new guttering. The south roof was also in reasonable condition, needing repairs to gutters and timber work.

In addition, a significant amount of stonework has been carried out on the roof. Two of seven chimneys have been repaired. On the south roof, 60% of stonework tasks - indent repairs to the balusters on the parapet walls - have been completed.

The 10 life-sized roof statues have been protected and will be put back in place in the spring.

But a number of ornamental urns - each weighing 600kg - were in danger.  Some were only being held by their own weight, as their timber pins had rotted. They were boxed in scaffold and lifted down by crane for restoration. Historic glass lanterns were also removed by crane.

Restoration work planned for 2020 includes:

Wentworth Woodhouse is owned by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT), which bought the mansion, its stables, riding school, Camellia House and 83 acres in March 2017 for £7m.

The Trust has 52 employees - a total of 33 new jobs were created in 2019 over just nine months – as well as 211 volunteers.

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