Wentworth Castle Gardens, one of our county’s greatest 18th century estates and the only grade I listed park and gardens within South Yorkshire, has officially re-opened.
Originally created for the privileged few, the glorious gardens, woodland and parkland are now preserved for all to enjoy.
The spectacular estate was closed to the public in 2017 but an exciting new partnership with the National Trust, Barnsley Council and the Northern College has secured its future for visitors to rejoice in the splendour once more.
The wonders of Wentworth Castle could be said to be the result of fierce family rivalry.
When William Wentworth, the 2nd Earl of Strafford, died childless in 1695, the Wentworth Woodhouse estate went to his wife’s nephew, Thomas Watson.
All his cousin Thomas Wentworth, grandson of the first Earl of Strafford, was bestowed with was the title Baron Raby. He vowed to create an estate with importance and splendour to rival the family home he felt he should have inherited and old Stainborough Hall became Wentworth Castle.
He subsumed the Cutler house within a grand Baroque edifice and surrounded it with elaborate gardens, monuments, pools and fountains. Conceived as an eye catcher, the mock Stainborough Castle formed a dramatic climax to the garden layout and is the second oldest Gothic folly in the country today.
Thomas’s son, William, inherited the estate in 1739 and continued in the spirit of competition with Wentworth Woodhouse. He constructed a new wing in the fashionable Palladian style and enhanced the gardens and park with further monuments, more ‘naturalistic’ planting, and an early serpentine lake to create the illusion of a river when viewed from the house.
When William died childless, the Wentworth Castle estate went through 11 years of financial hardship. After a special Act of Parliament in 1795 and acrimonious feuds among the families of William’s three sisters, in 1804 Wentworth Castle passed to the descendants of the youngest sister, Lady Harriet.
Eventually taking control was Frederick William Thomas Vernon who, as a young man committed to Wentworth Castle, set about restoring the estate and developing the gardens.
Frederick assumed the name of Vernon-Wentworth. Assisted by the sale of mining rights beneath the estate, the Vernon-Wentworths further embellished the 18th-century landscape, which already represented an unusual survival of early 18th-century tastes in formal gardens.
Their most significant contributions in the 19th and early 20th centuries included a conservatory, extensive rhododendron planting, and vineries, now lost, as well as other features of the walled gardens.
Bruce Canning Vernon-Wentworth was the last person of the family to occupy Wentworth Castle. When it became unsustainable to maintain he sold it to Barnsley Co-operation in 1948 before his death three years later. The mansion was converted into an education training college for women.
When the college moved to Sheffield Polytechnic in 1978, Wentworth Castle became the home of the Northern College of Residential Adult Education, with the surrounding gardens opened to the public in 2007 following extensive investment and restoration.
Today, Wentworth Castle Gardens is home to no fewer than 26 listed buildings and monuments, each of them with a different story to tell.
With 63 acres of formal gardens and 500 acres of wider parkland, there is plenty for visitors to see and enjoy. British orienteering has developed an exclusive trail of ten key points for you take in the highlights of the estate.
The 18th century maze like ‘Union Jack’ garden, restored Victorian conservatory and ‘ancient’ hill-top folly Stainborough Castle are all must-sees. Lady Lucy’s Walk is an avenue of towering lime trees and the parkland boasts views across Yorkshire’s lush green countryside, home to herds of red and fallow deer.
The refurbished children’s playground is still home to the much-loved castle climbing structure and zip wire. The Bite to Eat kiosk is perfectly situated in the play area to keep cool on hot summer days with ice creams and light snacks.
Throughout the summer soft archery will be taking place three days per week at the castle for children to try their hand at which is inclusive of an entry ticket.
Visit the Long Barn Café for freshly prepared food and stop by the gift shop to find a treat to take home.
The site is now accessible for all, with 4×4 mobility scooters available for hire to enable all visitors to explore the estate.
Guided house tours will be available towards the end of the year, where visitors will be able to learn more about the history contained within the four walls.
With acres of gardens and parkland to explore, you can keep the whole family happy, including four legged friends, with a day out at Wentworth Castle Gardens. Bring a picnic, spot wildlife, or just play hide and seek. Make the most of this special outdoor place this summer.
Wentworth Castle Gardens, Park Drive, Barnsley, S75 3EN Open 7 days a week March to October 10am-5pm last admission 4.15pm
Adults £8.50, Children £4.25, Family Ticket £21.25