New commercial future for former bachelor wing at Wentworth Woodhouse
Bedlam, a suite of rooms once reserved for boisterous Georgian bachelors at Rotherham stately home Wentworth Woodhouse, could soon become one of the most prestigious business lets in the UK.
Plans are afoot to transform Bedlam into rental spaces attractive to national PLCs and local companies.
When Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust took over the Grade I listed mansion in 2017, decades of neglect had left one of the finest homes in the UK in a sorry state.
The 23 Bedlam rooms were the worst. Situated on three floors of the South-East Wing on the East Front, there were holes the size of footballs in the roof above and gutters and drains were blocked. Rain poured in by the bucketload, roof timbers had rotted and ceilings and plasterwork were being destroyed.
Bedlam’s roof, along with those of the mansion’s chapel and riding school, was one of the first to be tackled when £7.5million of Capital Works/emergency repairs began in late 2018, using grant funding awarded in the Chancellor’s Autumn 2016 Statement and managed by Historic England.
After 15 months of work and a lengthy drying out period, the Trust can now explore its aim of turning Bedlam into des.res commercial property rental space.
The Trust hopes to see a wide range of businesses sharing its address – from national companies looking for a prestigious setting for their HQ, to specialists in heritage construction and the digital and creative industries.
“Our priority is to use the spaces we have at Wentworth Woodhouse to generate healthy income for our ongoing restoration tasks and to boost the local economy,” said the Trust’s CEO Sarah McLeod.
“When we launched our master plan in 2018, Bedlam was designated for commercial office lets. It is in a prime position, right alongside the state rooms on our famed East Front and this stunning and impressive location has easy access to the M1, M18 and A1 motorways.
Bedlam was originally the nickname of the Bethlem Hospital asylum in London.
“The fact that the name was adopted at Wentworth Woodhouse gives an insight into the high jinks which happened in that wing,”commented WWPT historian David Allott.
“In Georgian and Victorian times young gentlemen of the house slept there, as did visiting bachelor guests and their male servants. The rooms would have been well-furnished, comfortable – and a safe distance from those occupied by single women.”
The men-only domain switched to women-only when the rooms became the dormitories of the Lady Mabel College of Physical Education from 1950 to 1977.
It could be three or four years before Bedlam’s next occupants arrive, though. Permission for change of use from residential to commercial would need to be granted by Rotherham Borough Council and extensivel repairs and refurbishment are needed.
Feasibility studies have started, thanks to £10,585 of funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund and £12,500 from the Pilgrim Trust. The lengthy study will test the current market for office lets and examine refurbishment costs.
Consultants from the Leeds office of UK-wide surveyors/property agents Carter Jonas have been appointed to carry out a market appraisal.
Bruce Allan MRICS (head of commercial valuations in Yorkshire) stated: “We are delighted to be instructed to provide appraisals on the viability of this project. We have a previous relationship with this magnificent house, and we hope the re-purposing of elements will assist in securing its financial future.”