Looking for somewhere to visit or meet friends this summer?
Wentworth Woodhouse is just 45 minutes away, one junction up from Meadowhall, and possibly Rotherham’s best secret.
'One of the finest and grandest Georgian houses in England and at 606 ft, is famously considered to have the longest frontage, being twice the length of Buckingham Palace'. It has a rich and varied history, having links to the start of the English Civil war, the home of prime ministers, visited by Queen Victoria and used by military intelligence during World War 2. It was later used as a teacher training college where the beautiful ballroom was marked out as badminton courts for PE lessons. This same ballroom has more recently featured in the Netflix drama Victoria, and BBC’s, Gentleman Jack. The house was sold to a private owner in 1999 as a family residence, before a trust was set up in 2017 to manage the house.
At the moment the delights of the house, which can usually be seen by joining a tour, are not available due to the restrictions. So, the trust have opened the gardens to the public, which are usually only accessible on a tour. The delightful gardens are on a par with any National Trust property but with a less commercial feel, entry is £5 for an adult and £2.50 for children (with a bookable ticket). Handwritten signs point you to areas of interest, but one of the friendly and enthusiastic guides informed us “the best way to see the garden is to get lost, there are things of interest hidden in the most unexpected places”.
There are wide open spaces and hidden spots, with areas to picnic and a catering van near the house serving drinks, snacks and ice creams - and it feels like a safe, pleasant place to spend a day socially distancing and getting some fresh air. For the children there’s a bear to find and an outdoor kitchen area for making mud pies.
The garden also boasts a 15ft decorative punch bowl, apparently the size of your punch bowl denoted your status in the 1800s, a grand family indeed! There is also an 18th Century Ionic temple and a magnificent Camellia house, who’s state of slight disrepair adds to its charm.
The South Terrace delivers fantastic vistas across the surrounding countryside and area, bordered by a 1500 ft. long retaining wall which you can promenade alongside, Pride and Prejudice style, admiring the views.
Wentworth Woodhouse is set in the village of Wentworth, a pretty traditional village with an impressive garden centre, previously the vegetable garden of Wentworth Woodhouse. The garden centre has its own grotto style garden, a farm and a maze - itself worth a visit.
Don’t go expecting manicured perfection, the ‘in progressness (!?)’ of the Woodhouse adds to its charm, and, by visiting, you’re supporting the important work to get this interesting and historical beauty restored.
I recommend visiting both the house and gardens, when we can, but for now it’s just the gardens. You can visit another time to discover the treasures of the house (in the past they did a full house and gardens tour, which took 4.5 hours, so unless you’re a die hard, it’s perhaps better to do it in stages).
And if you do visit, we’d love to know what you think.
Words: Nicola Chapman
Images: Louise Porter & Sophie Chapman