Catherine Hardy takes a trip to some of Yorkshire’s lesser known areas to reveal their unique character. Join her here to discover the story of Wentworth.
One of South Yorkshire’s best kept secrets is the village of Wentworth, which lies between Barnsley and Rotherham. It’s appearance as a sleepy, quintessentially English country village belies the fact that this was once home to one of the most powerful families in Britain, who built the nearby Wentworth Woodhouse, which is the largest privately owned home in Europe.
The once influential Fitzwilliams made their vast fortune from coal mining, and visitors to the house during their tenure included Queen Victoria and Anna Pavlova, the prima ballerina who danced for King George V in the house’s beautiful marble saloon during his state visit of 1912 (fun fact: the first Downton Abbey movie is based on this visit and some of the scenes for the film were also shot here).
After WWII, due to death duties, the house became a bit of a millstone around the family’s neck, and after attempts to sell it to the National Trust were declined, it became a ladies college. In the intervening years, it fell into a state of disrepair and was sold to a succession of private buyers starting in 1989. Attempts were made at renovations, but it was only when it was sold to a local trust that repairs began in earnest and it is now open to the public for tours and as an event space.
If stately homes aren’t your thing, the village itself has plenty to offer. The garden centre which stands on the site of the old pleasure gardens of Wentworth Woodhouse, and has been substantially restored, includes an old bear pit, an Italian garden and a maze. It’s a pleasant round walk from the garden centre up to not one, but two churches.
The ‘new’ church was built in the late 1800’s and is a a local landmark as its spire can be seen for miles around, and while the old church is no longer in use as a religious building, there’s still lots to see inside for any lovers of history, including a wall frieze dedicated to the 1st Earl of Strafford, who was privy counsellor to Charles I.
Then it’s back through the main road of the village, and though the village is small, it boasts two pubs, a tearoom, an antique centre and even a post office. You might even spot the peacock, who appears to have taken up residence near the old church. Continue on and stop off at the picturesque and perfectly named ‘Paradise Square’ – it’s a must for your Instagram feed.