The history behind the house
Wentworth Woodhouse has a long and fascinating history. It was built and expanded throughout the 18th century in multiple styles, making the length of the east front 185 metres (606 feet) – one of the longest country house façades in Europe. Owned by the Fitzwilliam family up until 1989, it then had two changes of private ownership until 2017.
After centuries of private ownership Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT) purchased the house on behalf of the nation for £7million in 2017, following a five year campaign by SAVE and the WWPT. Their 25-year Masterplan aims to restore and preserve the house and grounds for the public. The current works are funded by a grant from DCMS, administered by Historic England, with help towards operational costs from the National Trust and National Lottery Heritage Fund. Over 100 structural surveys and commencement of capital works showed the extent of the damage, decay and loss caused over many decades. There is a huge task ahead to restore and protect Grade I and II* listed features and bring the house back into good repair.
Woodhead Group has been selected by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT) to carry out the repair, restoration and replacement of the building’s 1500m² (16,000+ square foot) roof, as part of its 25-year Masterplan. The phase of work will see the Woodhead Group deliver major conservation work over the next two years.
Woodhead’s work to the roof is being facilitated by a huge £1.1million scaffold system, covering the exterior of the façade of the building. A canopy covering the roof is protecting the building, enabling the works to be carried out.
The project includes the roofs over the centre of the east front, the Oak Staircase and the Long Gallery. Some internal work will also be carried out to the Marble Saloon.
Wentworth Woodhouse, shrouded in a scaffolding shell. Pictured LtoR: David Trevis-Smith, of WWPT; Giles Proctor of Historic England; Andy Stamford, Woodhead Group’s site manager and project manager Jon Quick; Simon Revill, Donald Insall Associates; Chris Burns, of Rex Proctor quantity surveyors; Dorian Proudfoot, Donald Insall Associates; Amy Stamford – Woodhead’s quantity surveyor
There are many challenges that come with working on a heritage building, and our Wentworth Woodhouse project is no different. There are multiple challenges, to which our team have come up with great solutions.
Due to being a historic Grade I listed building, the scaffolding could not be attached to the building like on other projects, such as by drilling into the wall.
The scaffolding was secured to the ground with platipus anchors, which are drilled to the ground and are designed to splay out to prevent the scaffolding from lifting off the floor in heavy winds. The solution to the scaffolding being unable to be attached to the walls are friction ties, which tie the scaffolding to the walls instead. These are planks of wood with carpet underneath to protect the stone. For further protection due to the size and weight, the scaffolding structure was given extra strength through doubled up standard fittings and mark 3 fittings, which are heftier than standard fittings.
The extremely heavy urns (approximately 600kg each) needed to be lifted down for restoration and some of them were being held by only their own weight due to their timber pins rotting over time. Lifting them was also challenging as the majority of their weight was in the middle due to their shape. Also as historic objects, they are irreplaceable and therefore it was crucial to not drop or damage any!
An innovative scaffold frame was constructed around each urn to secure them when lifting, as well as extra clips added to the surrounding scaffolding to allow the crane crew to clip on and off more easily. With this extra care no urns were damaged, and skilled heritage masonry specialists will restore them. When placed back on the roof, the urns will have stainless steel pins to secure them rather than timber.
Sean Knight, Heritage Masonry Contracts and Stephen Price, Baldwin Crane Hire Ltd prepare to remove a Georgian urn from the roof for restoration.
One side of the roof had some historic glass lanterns that required restoration but were incredibly heavy, meaning they had been prohibitively expensive to remove.
Whilst there was a crane on site for the scaffolding, we arranged for the crane to also lift down the lanterns for restoration.
- At 185 metres (606 feet), Wentworth Woodhouse has one of the longest country house façades in Europe
- We are working on 1500m² (16,000+ square foot) of the roof which is the equivalent of six tennis courts in size
- 50,000 metres of scaffolding poles have been used – laid end to end, they would be 5.5 times taller than Mount Everest
- The scaffolding reaches 30 metres high, the same as six double decker buses!
- Each urn weighs about the same as an adult polar bear!
To find out more incredible statistics, click here
Achieved to Date
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An exciting aspect of the roof restoration works Woodheads are doing is the opportunity to open these for the public to see, with rooftop tours. Roof tour visitors can view three roofs from different historical periods, watch skilled heritage craftsmen carrying out vital repairs and hear tour guides’ updates on how restoration work is progressing. The tours are also completely accessible for people of all abilities, with two lifts available for those unable to climb the 135 steps.
Ben Parkinson MBE, pictured on the roof for the launch of the rooftop tours with his dad Andy Dernie
Sky’s the limit for girls…build a career with the women helping to restore Wentworth Woodhouse
Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust recently invited local schoolgirls to meet some of the indispensable women in the construction sector who are using their talents and passion to make the magnificent Rotherham stately home great again, including our own Quantity Surveyor Amy Stamford.
Taking its lead from June’s International Women in Engineering Day 2019, the event aimed to open the girls’ eyes to career possibilities in the male-dominated sector.
Find out more here
Pupils and staff from Swinton and Wath Academies, St Bernard’s and Horizon Community College pupils take to the roof of Wentworth Woodhouse to learn how to reach the top in a construction career from (LtoR front row) RDG engineers Rachel Joshua and Samantha Mkhail and Woodhead Group quantity surveyor Amy Stamford
NCS painters on the grass outside Wentworth Woodhouse
South Yorkshire teenagers on the National Citizen Service scheme run by Rotherham United’s Community Sports Trust spent a week at Wentworth Woodhouse creating a unique series of images, where over a dozen imaginative images created by NCS young people will adorn the hoardings on the public walkways on the rooftop tour.
Find out more here
Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust
Wentworth Woodhouse is one of the largest houses in Europe and was built between 1725 and 1750. The house was purchased by Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT) in March 2017 for £7 million following a five-year campaign by SAVE and WWPT. WWPT is now managing a major project to restore the house and open it to the public.
Historic England is the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment. We protect, champion and save the places that define who we are. We care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them. Working with communities and specialists we share our passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all.