England’s largest privately owned home, believed to have inspired Pemberley estate in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” has sold to a preservation trust that estimates it will spend more than £40 million (US$50 million) in restoration.
The Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust has closed on a deal to buy the home near the town of Rotherham in South Yorkshire, including 83 surrounding acres, from private owners for £7 million (US$8.732 million)—though it will cost six times that to bring the 18th century slice of British architectural history back to its former glory, the trust said in a statement on Monday.
“This is the culmination of five years very hard work,” said Julie Kenny, chair of trust and a local businesswoman. “It is great news for the people of Rotherham and for everyone who cares about historic buildings.”
The 250,000-square-foot Georgian mansion is designated Grade 1, the highest grade given to buildings of exceptional historic interest. It has more than 350 rooms, miles of interior hallways and enough space to have at one point employed more than 1,000 servants and staff. The National Heritage Memorial provided a £3.5 million grant, half of the funds needed to purchase the home, while the rest came from a collection of other donors, according to the trust’s statement.
The home, which has hosted English royals including a young Queen Victoria, was built by the Marquesses of Rockingham between 1725 and 1750. The home’s defining feature is its 600-foot-long front, culminating at the center in a grand Palladian entrance. It has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest private estate in the country.
Among the home’s famous rooms is the double-height Marble Salon, considered one of the finest early 18th century interiors in England, according to the trust. The sale not only included Wentworth Woodhouse’s sprawling grounds, but the home’s numerous classical statuary.
The home is thought by some to have inspired Austen’s description of Pemberley, the stately home of Fitzwilliam Darcy, the main love interest in the 1813 novel and a character that would become the quintessential withdrawn romantic hero. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond brought up the literary connection when the government pledged £7.6 million last year for repairs to the house—though Austen’s official society counters that there are also claims a manor in Chatsworth inspired Pemberley.
Long-term plans for the property include restoring the estate’s gardens with the help of volunteers, bringing visitors to explore the richly decorated rooms, and turning the stables into offices for local businesses.
In 1999, renowned architect Clifford Newbold bought the property, opening the building up for the first time to public tours and events in 2012 and working to restore it until his death, according to a statement from the family, who put Wentworth Woodhouse up for sale following Newbold’s death 2015.
“Wentworth Woodhouse has been an important part of our lives for nearly two decades,” the family said in a statement on Monday. “Although there is some sadness in having to say goodbye, our greatest wish, which was always to see that its future was secure, has at last been fulfilled.”
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