Bedlam was originally the nickname of the Bethlem Hospital facility in London.
“The fact that it was adopted at Wentworth Woodhouse gives a glimpse of the hustle and bustle that happened in that wing,” said historian David Allott of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust.
‘In Georgian and Victorian times young masters of the house slept there, as did visiting bachelors and their male servants. The rooms would be well furnished, comfortable and a safe distance from those occupied by single women.”
Now it is to be converted into rental space for companies.
When the Trust took over the Grade II listed mansion in 2017, decades of neglect had left one of the UK’s finest houses in a sorry state – and the 23 Bedlam rooms were the worst. Located on three floors of the southeast wing on the east front, there were football-sized holes in the roof above and gutters and drains were clogged. The rain poured down like buckets, roof beams were rotten, ceilings and plaster were destroyed.
Bedlam’s roof, along with those of the manor’s chapel and riding school, was one of the first to be tackled when £7.5million works and repairs began in late 2018, using grants detailed in the Autumn Declaration Granted of the Chancellor in 2016 and managed by Historic England.
After 15 months of hard work and a long drying out period, the Trust can now pursue its goal of turning Bedlam into des res commercial property rental space.
The Trust is hoping for a wide range of companies to share its address – from national companies looking for a representative setting for their headquarters, to specialists in monument building and the digital and creative industries.
Chief Executive Sarah McLeod said: “Our priority is to use the spaces we have at Wentworth Woodhouse to generate a healthy income for our ongoing restoration work and to stimulate the local economy.
“When we launched our master plan in 2018, Bedlam was earmarked for commercial office rentals. It is in a prime location, adjacent to the State Rooms on our famous East Front, and this stunning and impressive location offers easy access to the M1, M18 and A1 motorways.”
When the rooms became dormitories at Lady Mabel College of Physical Education from 1950 to 1977, the male-only domain was switched to female-only.
However, it could be three or four years before the next residents arrive. A change of use from residential to commercial would need approval from Rotherham Borough Council and requires extensive repairs and refurbishment.
Feasibility studies have begun thanks to funding of £10,585 from the Architectural Heritage Fund and £12,500 from the Pilgrim Trust. The lengthy study will test the current office rental market and examine the cost of refurbishment.
Advisers from UK office of appraisers/estate agents in Leeds, Carter Jonas, have been hired to carry out a market appraisal.
Bruce Allan MRICS (Head of Commercial Assessments Yorkshire) stated: “We are delighted to be engaged to provide feasibility assessments for this project. We have a previous relationship with this magnificent home and hope the conversion will help secure its financial future.”