Wentworth Woodhouse – Wentworth, England - Atlas Obscura

Wentworth Woodhouse

The UK's largest private house was the subject of a long-lasting political dispute. 


The Wentworth Woodhouse, built in the 18th century, is the largest private house in the United Kingdom. It has more than 300 rooms, with 250,000 square feet of floor space. It is surrounded by a magnificent 180-acre park, complete with a population of deer and large artificial lakes. 

The manse actually comprises two joined houses, both build int he early 1700s. The house on the west front is the original Jacobean house, made of brick with beautiful stone details. On the east front is an all-stone building.

The Jacobean half was once the home of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, whom Charles I allowed to be executed  in 1641, supposedly to appease Parliament.  The house was further renovated and expanded (adding the eastern building) by Thomas Watson-Wentworth, the 1st Marques of Rockingham, and his son, the 2nd Marques of Rockingham, who was the Prime Minister of England twice, and was visited, at the house, by Benjamin Franklin in 1771.

Yet despite its historic grandeur, the house has more recently been at the center of political dispute. It started in 1946, when, on the orders of the then Labor government, the area between the house and the family mausoleum was repurposed as a coal mine in Britain. In fact, more than 132,000 tons of coal were removed from the garden alone. 

This decision was extremely controversial, and continues to be today. In 2016, an announcement of an award by the Conservative Government to repair and preserve this historic building was met with mixed views, despite the long amount of time that’s passed since the mining took place. The historic estate is now owned by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust. For now, it is open to the public.

In the 2016-17 BBC TV series Victoria, the two fronts of the house were used to represent Kensington Palace and Buckingham palace (Victoria never actually visited) and the interior was used for a brothel scene. The interior was also used to represent Buckingham Palace In the 2017 movie about Churchill, Darkest Hour.

In August 2017, an announcement was made that the National Trust had agreed to support cost of the renovation of this building which is estimated at between £45 million and £100 million.

Know Before You Go

Visits to the interior of the house are only available sometimes, so check online. However, even a visit to see just the outside of the property from the public footpath is very worthwhile. Parking is available just outside the park entrance.

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July 27, 2017

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