Tag Archives: Earl Fitzwilliam

Wentworth Woodhouse Revisited: 2011 (part 2)

         

Charles Watson-Wentworth as the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1766-8

           The inhabitants of Wentworth Woodhouse and their relationship with the house is not unlike those of the previous case studies examined by Cruickshank. This is due greatly to the twentieth-century inhabitants experiencing problems of descent. However, punctuated with the usual financial fluctuations and difficulties in maintaining such a vast sprawl of building, Wentworth Woodhouse has survived almost intact. Upon the 1st Marquess’s death in 1750, the estate and title passed to Charles Watson-Wentworth, his fifth son and eighth child in a family of ten (the two older sons having died young). A man of a slight nervous disposition, Charles suffered from regular health problems and often sought advice from friends and his resident doctor. His wife Mary would send him supportive letters whilst he was away in London and also helped him with much of his administration, to which he called her his ‘Minerva at my side’. On Charles’s death in 1782 without male issue, his widow moved out to accommodate his nephew the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam and family.

          The 8thEarl died prematurely in a flying accident in 1948 without male issue and although the

The 8th Earl Fitzwilliam (taken from http://www.thepeerage.com)

house passed separately to the heirs of later Earls, the contents were dispersed and the house became two separate living quarters. Parts of the west front accommodated the remaining family members until the death of the 10th Earl in 1979, whilst the east front experienced a mix of inhabitants. Most of that part of the house was let to the West Riding County Council in 1950 for use as a teaching-training college but by the 1970s with local government reorganisation the lease was assigned to Rotherham Metropolitan District Council which then became part of Sheffield Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University). Eventually, with incredible running costs to meet, the Polytechnic were forced to surrender the lease in 1986. The daughter of the 10th Earl placed the house and 30 acres on the market in 1988, and a year later it was bought by Wensley Haydon-Baillie, a businessman who struggled to maintain the place, and it was repossessed. At some point plans to convert Wentworth Woodhouse into a hotel were granted but not implemented.

          When Clifford Newbold bought the house for a mere £1.5million in 1999, the local community were especially intrigued to discover information on its new owner. By 2006 rumours had spread that the house was lived in by some mysterious solitary figure, who would sit at one window every evening and whose quarters would be lit by a single light. When The Sunday Times Magazine published an article on Catherine Bailey’s Black Diamonds in February 2007 residents of a nearby village were ready to comment on the reclusive nature of Wentworth Woodhouse’s inhabitant. For many it was pure curiosity, but for others the house represented agricultural and industrial communities which were once bound together through economic necessity. The owners of Wentworth Woodhouse provided employment on a large scale, both within and without its walls. Local village residents were therefore eager to know what impact the latest owner would have on their lives and cultural landscape. One resident said she had never seen him, adding that ‘no-one I know ever has’. This is about to change when Clifford Newbold shall appear on BBC2 in the company of Dan Cruickshank.

          Cruickshank’s quest to uncover ‘our nation’s hidden history’ is set to be a challenge with his exploration of Wentworth Woodhouse. In revealing this country house, Cruickshank will have several tasks to complete. The first is undoubtedly aspects of the construction of the house as two almost separate buildings. Dedication to the topic of twentieth-century Wentworth Woodhouse should be shown, especially in terms of its socio-economic status as the home of mine owners and their relationship with the post-war Labour government. A third point (though not really a final point) should be to ‘out’ the current owner Clifford Newbold and allow him to demonstrate his plans of restoration and refurbishment. It will be interesting to see who else Dan Cruickshank calls on to help illustrate Wentworth Woodhouse’s past, as it is essential that the history of this house is given the limelight. The Country House Revealed at Wentworth Woodhouse will most certainly be multi-layered.

References:

Elaine Chalus, ‘Elite Women, Social Politics, and the Political World of Late Eighteenth-Century England, The Historical Journal 43, 3(2000), pp.669-697

Tim Rayment, ‘The Mansion of Mystery and Malice’, Sunday Times Magazine, (11 February 2007), pp.16-25

Country Life articles:

Marcus Binney, ‘Wentworth Woodhouse Revisited I’, (March 17 1983), pp.624-627

Marcus Binney, ‘Wentworth Woodhouse Revisited II’, (March 24, 1983), pp.708-711

John Martin Robinson, ‘Realise the Worth of Wentworth Woodhouse’, (21 January 1999), pp.58-61

Links:        

Marquess of Rockingham from Wikipedia,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marquess_of_Rockingham

The Earls Fitzwilliam from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earl_Fitzwilliam, particularly the 4th Earl, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Fitzwilliam,_4th_Earl_Fitzwilliam

Regional newspaper, The Star on the current inhabitants of Wentworth Woodhouse, 21 May 2011, http://tiny.cc/v21wa

WentworthVillage local history and community pages, http://www.wentworthvillage.net/history/wentworth-woodhouse

Marjorie Bloy’s website dedicated to Charles Watson-Wentworth, http://www.historyhome.co.uk/pms/rocky.htm

The Wentworth Follies, http://www.inkamera.ukgo.com/wfolly/4rm0-0.htm (These are also discussed by Marcus Binney for Country Life, 24 January 1991)

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Wentworth Woodhouse Revisited: 2011 (part 1)

          I realise that I have already written a post on some aspect of Wentworth Woodhouse, Yorkshire, but there is something extremely attractive about this place. In anticipation of Dan Cruickshank’s The Country House Revealed episode on Wentworth Woodhouse, on 31st May (and because I might not have access to a television or computer next week) I wanted to jot down what I believe are crucial points relating to this specific house and its owners. These may be more amateurish in delivery than Cruickshank’s method, but my own studies on Wentworth Woodhouse have revealed some fantastic stories.

Wentworth Woodhouse (copyright Country Life Magazine, May 1946)

          Currently the subject of a court hearing that must seem rather more contentious than others, Wentworth Woodhouse has played host to large elite families, politicians, teachers and students, a businessman, and a self-made architect. Unlike Dan Cruickshank’s previous case studies, Wentworth Woodhouse is better known thanks in the main to Catherine Bailey’s Black Diamonds which discusses the socio-economic circumstances of coal mining on the estate during the twentieth century. Most of Bailey’s book details the often strained relationships between the mine owners – the Earls Fitzwilliam – the local and governmental committees, and the local coal-mining families. Given that Black Diamonds has been well-received and is considered a good piece of scholarly reference, it’s high time the house itself received a bit more recognition.

            I am reliant on several sources for Wentworth Woodhouse since no history of the house has been bound together in the same way a guidebook might present a single biography. This also means compromising on a lot of detail here. For greater discussion of the destructive mining processes and the social impact this had, then Black Diamonds is the best place to start. The focus here however, will be in two parts; the first on the house, and the second part on the families and owners of Wentworth Woodhouse.

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           Several authors including Marcus Binney have written articles on the house and its parkland for Country Life magazine.  A few scholars have also produced comprehensive (yet unpublished) studies on the owners and their influences in political and socio-economic spheres (see references below). Arthur Young’s A Six Months Tour Through the North of England (1770) is also a fine contemporary source for eighteenth-century Wentworth Woodhouse relating the agricultural innovations on the estate.

           Yet, in line with Dan Cruickshank’s programme, I would like to draw attention to John Martin Robinson’s article, ‘Realise the Worth of Wentworth Woodhouse’ for Country Life in 1999. Here, Robinson stated the key issues which have affected the house, and to some degree he offered remedies to the many constraints still attached to the house in 2011:

                 The failure of Wentworth Woodhouse to become a ‘stately home’ open to the public after the Second World War and thus to have secured its future … is an architectural tragedy. [However,] it is important to recognise that the value of the house and estate lies in more than its architecture. Wentworth Woodhouse represents as nowhere else the Whig synthesis of political liberty, scientific and economic development, patronage of the arts, landscape gardening, industrial and agricultural improvement.

          John Martin Robinson’s reaction to Wentworth Woodhouse being placed on the open market in 1998 was characteristic of many individuals working in the heritage sector and academia. It is in the capable hands of self-made architect Clifford Newbold and his family these days who has long-term plans of restoration and refurbishment. This episode of the house’s history was the main focus for two editions of Country Life magazine published in February 2010. Whether Newbold’s plans will mean greater public access over the coming years is yet unclear.

          This is what makes Wentworth Woodhouse so unique; people want to see it open and accessible for the very reasons John Martin Robinson states in his article. It is architecturally significant, but it should not be viewed as a shell to be filled with the appropriate chattels in the same way as South Wraxall, Kinross House and Easton Neston. Its foundations were laid as part of a spirited rivalry between family members in the early 1700s and grew in both size and reputation throughout the eighteenth century. Therefore, its ‘working’ history is also relevant as a home and administrative base for the Marquesses of Rockingham, and later the Earls Fitzwilliam. It is of national and regional significance, possibly international too, given the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham’s political role and connection with Colonial America.

Engraving of the west front by John Cole c.1728 (Bodleian Library)

Wentworth Woodhouse is a hybrid of Baroque and Palladianism with an east front longer than that of Buckingham Palace and stretching across 606ft of ground. Its greatest features are certainly its hall or saloon, the lower or pillared hall and Whistlejacket Room. Built for Thomas Wentworth (1693-1750), Lord Malton, later 1st Marquess of Rockingham in two phases, the house can be viewed as two distinct blocks united with courts and interlinked wings. The west front (garden front) was begun in 1725 (incorporating an older seventeenth century house later known as the Clifford Lodgings) in brick with stone dressings in the Baroque style. A neat engraving dating from c.1728 by John Cole shows the west front and its approach (as shown). The east front was underway before the west front was complete in 1734 which has raised questions about the drastic stylistic changes occurring within a continuous building programme. Marcus Binney suggests that the 1st Marquess may have ‘been forced into a stylistic about-turn under pressure from Lord Burlington, Sir Thomas Robinson and other Palladian apostles and converts among Yorkshire landowners.’ This development hid the west front behind a new façade and turned the approach through 180 degrees. No doubt Cruickshank will make this a key point in his episode on Wentworth Woodhouse.

          The designer of the west front may still remain a mystery, but the east front was the product of designs made by R. Tunnicliffe and Henry Flitcroft and completed c.1750. Additions were made at later periods, especially to the Clifford Lodgings by John Carr in the 1760s, who also added an extra storey to parts of the east front, and James ‘Athenian’ Stuart who may have provided plans for some internal design work. The building of Wentworth Woodhouse provides many routes of enquiry for the architectural historian and it would be fantastic to see some of the anomalies pointed out by Dan Cruickshank. To ‘reveal’ the architectural and design details at this house would not only be necessary but a terrible misdemeanour if not explored deeply enough.
 

References: 

Marjorie Bloy, ‘Rockingham and Yorkshire: The Political, Economic and Social Role of Charles Watson-Wentworth, the Second Marquis of Rockingham’ (PhD thesis, University of Sheffield, 1986)

Paul James Nunn, ‘The Management of Some South Yorkshire Landed Estates in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Linked with the Central Economic Development of the Area’ (PhD thesis, University of Sheffield, 1985)

Country Life articles:

Unknown author, ‘Wentworth Woodhouse: the Seat of Earl Fitzwilliam’, May 10 1946, pp.854-857

Marcus Binney, ‘Wentworth Woodhouse Revisited I’, (March 17 1983), pp.624-627

Marcus Binney, ‘Wentworth Woodhouse Revisited II’, (March 24, 1983), pp.708-711

Marcus Binney, ‘Wentworth Woodhouse,Yorkshire’, (January 24, 1991), pp.60-63

John Martin Robinson, ‘Realise the Worth of Wentworth Woodhouse’, (21 January 1999), pp.58-61

 Also, Country Life produced articles with images from the years 1906, 1924 (5 articles that year), and 1934. See, http://www.countrylifeimages.co.uk/ or scroll to Learning Resources on your right in this blog.

Links:         

Regional newspaper, The Star on the current inhabitants of Wentworth Woodhouse, 21 May 2011, http://tiny.cc/v21wa

WentworthVillage local history and community pages, http://www.wentworthvillage.net/history/wentworth-woodhouse

Blog ‘The Country Seat’ entry on Wentworth Woodhouse, http://countryhouses.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/the-greatest-country-house-youve-never-heard-of-wentworth-woodhouse/

The Wikipedia entry (adapted from the DiCamillo Companion database entry) for Wentworth Woodhouse, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wentworth_Woodhouse

Dr Marjorie Bloy’s website dedicated to the politics of the second half of the eighteenth century including Charles Watson-Wentworth, http://www.historyhome.co.uk/pms/rocky.htm

Stories and Reminiscences: ‘Wentworth Woodhouse was My Home’, http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/sightseeing-national/wentworth-woodhouse-wentworth/1239735/

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