£4m National Lottery funding to revamp historic Camellia House at Wentworth Woodhouse

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Exterior of the Camellia House

Thanks to an award of over £4m by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, a rare Georgian Camellia House, home to some of the Western World’s oldest camellias, will be rescued and transformed into a celebration of the globe’s most popular drink… tea.

The award, announced today, heralds a major step for the charitable trust that rescued the Grade I listed architectural jewel Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham from decline in 2017.

Five years ago, Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust purchased the once-magnificent home of the Marquesses of Rockingham and the Earls Fitzwilliam.

Saving and repurposing the Grade II*listed Camellia House in the grounds is the Trust’s first regeneration project now £9.7m of vital repairs have been completed to other historic buildings on the site.

Thanks to funding raised by National Lottery players, and support from other funders including Historic England and The Hamish Ogston Foundation, the glass-fronted structure will return to its past splendour – and its early roots.

On the Heritage at Risk Register and recently propped to prevent it tumbling down, in the 1800s the Camellia House was used as a tea house by Lady Rockingham, wife of the 2nd Marquess, to entertain guests with the most fashionable new drink of the day.

David Renwick, Director, England North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Over the last 6 years, The National Lottery Heritage Fund has invested over £690,000 to support Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust to get to this point and ensure the transformation of one of the UK’s grandest stately homes can get underway. We’re delighted to be supporting the Trust with this latest grant to embark on restoring the beautiful Camellia House for the public, and especially those within the local community, to enjoy and explore its fascinating heritage.”

The year-long transformation begins in early summer 2022. Up to 22 new local hospitality jobs of varying hours will be created when the tea house opens in summer 2023.

Historic camellias, some surviving from the early 1800s, will have pride of place, and a tea menu will embrace tea-drinking ceremonies and cultures from across the globe.

The Camellia House will also serve as an evening events space and a hub for a host of tea-inspired events.

One day a week it will be a community cafe for local community groups to meet and explore local tea traditions. A vibrant range of art workshops, natural play, sensory and wellbeing experiences, exhibitions and events, many focussing on tea themes, will be staged there.

Sarah McLeod, CEO, Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, said: “We are very grateful to National Lottery players via the National Lottery Heritage Fund for this significant grant award. We can now take a huge step forward in delivering our aspirations – regenerating Wentworth Woodhouse so it can benefit all people living in South Yorkshire and be an even greater source of local pride.

“Renovating the Camellia House is the first phase in our wider masterplan project to begin Wentworth Woodhouse’s new life, turning ‘Yorkshire’s Hidden Gem’ into a jewel in the crown of not only Yorkshire’s heritage, but the UK’s.

“The Camellia House’s global tea theme was chosen because of the building’s past, but also because tea is universal. The world’s most popular drink will help us to connect with a diverse range of audiences by placing different tea cultures in the spotlight.”

In its new 21st Century life, Wentworth Woodhouse will become a leading visitor attraction and a catalyst for positive change in South Yorkshire.

Its programme of mixed-use regeneration, described as the most exciting and challenging heritage project of a generation, will take up to two decades to deliver and will cost over £130 million.

The house has already been recognised as a game-changer for putting Rotherham and South Yorkshire on the global cultural map.

From March 2017 to March 2021, the Trust outperformed the South Yorkshire Region in social and economic impact by 35%. It created 57 jobs, attracted 71,000 visitors and added £13.5million to the South Yorkshire economy. In that period, 95% of its £7.9 million capital spend went to local companies.

David Renwick at The Heritage Fund, continued: “As work on ‘Levelling Up’ the UK gathers apace, the significance of heritage in creating a sense of pride in people’s hometowns and counties, and the positive impact it can have on boosting the economy is being further recognised. The ambitious and important work being undertaken by Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust looks set to take this work in the North of England to the next level, and is a perfect example of the projects we want to fund to achieve these aims.”

The full cost of the Camellia House project is £5m. Additional funding is already pledged and includes £250,000 from Historic England and £364,622 from The Hamish Ogston Foundation, via Historic England.

Giles Proctor, Historic England Heritage at Risk Architect, said: “We have been working closely with Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust on the first phase of the restoration of the mansion and are now delighted to provide a £250,000 grant which will enable repairs to the Camellia House to move forward. Our award, along with support from the Hamish Ogston Foundation, acts as a vital catalyst to attract greater amounts of funding. It will help rejuvenate this wonderful building and ensure that it will again delight visitors to the garden. The project will also provide a lifeline for the skilled crafts people who help keep historic places alive, securing them for the future, and an opportunity to gain hands-on experience for their trainees.”

WWPT’s own funds and grant applications will contribute £136,536, the Garfield Weston Foundation has donated £118,257, the Ian Addison Charitable Trust £7,500, in-kind donations total £19,270 and volunteer time £33,400.

Image caption: The derelict Grade II*listed Camellia House at Wentworth Woodhouse

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