Categories
Streets

Fitzwilliam Street

Planning application has been received for a new 13-storey development below the Washington public house. Photograph by Cartwright Pickard

The Fitzwilliam Street part of Sheffield city centre was developed in the early 19th century, from agricultural fields into Victorian terracing and warehouses. Of significance, is that the area was heavily bombed during World War Two and as a result was cleared and remained largely undeveloped until the 1970s and 1980s.

The boom in student accommodation has resurrected the area in the past decade, not least with another new planning application submitted to Sheffield City Council for a thirteen-storey block of 209 student studio apartments. If all current applications are approved, the area will once again revert to residential use.

But what is the history of Fitzwilliam Street?

Back in 1874, Samuel Everard, a prominent citizen of the town, made the following observations: –

“As we pass Bright Street, Fitzwilliam Street and Rockingham Street, let us know them as illustrations of the origin of our street names. They at once indicate the ownership of the soil by the house of Wentworth (of Wentworth Woodhouse).”

Photograph by Cartwright Pickard

The last Marquis of Rockingham, Charles Watson-Wentworth, married Mary, the daughter and heir of Thomas Bright, of Badsworth, near Pontefract, in 1752, who in her own right was Lord of the Manor of Ecclesall and owner of extensive estates in the vicinity.

It was said that the Marquis, when once taunted with marrying a woman of no blood, had replied, “If she had no blood, she had plenty of suet.”

The marriage brought the land into possession of the Marquis of Rockingham and it descended to his nephew, William Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam.

The names of Fitzwilliam Street and Rockingham Street are familiar to us all, but Bright Street, named after the Lord of the Manor of Ecclesall, has long disappeared.

It ran directly from the bottom end of Fitzwilliam Street towards Cumberland Street, crossed by South Street (that we now know as The Moor). It broadly spanned the same line as does Fitzwilliam Gate today.

Photograph by Cartwright Pickard
Categories
Buildings People

Wentworth Woodhouse

Photograph by Sheffielder

“If you lay out your money in improving your seat, lands, gardens, etc., you beautify the country and do the work ordered by God himself.” These were the words of the 1st Marquess of Rockingham in the letter of advice he left for his son, the future Prime Minister, shortly before his death in 1750.

He had been good as his word, by his own reckoning he had spent £82,500 improving his house and grounds at Wentworth, providing it with one of the longest fronts of any English country house.

We are talking about Wentworth Woodhouse, situated within Rotherham borough, but within a stone throw of the Sheffield border, up the road from Chapeltown.

This remains one of South Yorkshire’s hidden secrets, only emerging from years of obscurity within the past few years.

Few people realise that behind the 600ft Palladian front is a second house with a grand baroque front. The difference between the two houses is blatant, but they formed a single building programme between 1724 to 1749.

Photograph by Sheffielder

The family made their fortune from coal mining, and the Fitzwilliams, descended from the Rockinghams, became well-known in Sheffield circles.

However, the 20th century wasn’t kind to the family and certainly not to Wentworth Woodhouse.

After World War Two, Manny Shimwell, Minister of Fuel and Power, told Peter Fitzwilliam, “I am going to mine right up to your bloody front door.” And he did.

Years of open-cast mining devastated the gardens and parkland and did lasting damage to the old house itself.

Unable to be maintained properly, Wentworth Woodhouse survived due to the efforts of Lady Mabel Fitzwilliam, sister of the 7th Earl, who negotiated a deal with West Riding County Council in 1949 to use it as a training college for physical education teachers. The family retained the Baroque wing.

Lady Mabel College later merged with Sheffield Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University) and remained at Wentworth Woodhouse until 1988.

The house was put up for sale and bought by Wensley Haydon-Baillie, a millionaire, who, after a bad business investment in 1998, admitted debts of £13million, and the property was repossessed by the bank.

Its saviour was Clifford Newbold, a London architect, who, far from being the recluse he was originally made out to be, did what he could to save Wentworth Woodhouse.

After his death in 2015, Wentworth Woodhouse was put on the market and eventually sold to Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust for £7million in 2017.

This is undoubtedly the renaissance for Wentworth Woodhouse, with £7.2million of repairs to the roof almost complete.

Photograph by Sheffielder

In normal circumstances, the state rooms are open to the public, with plans to use parts of the house as a hotel and business centre.

Subsidence and age have contributed to its unstable condition, underlined by the recent discovery that Georgian cornices, 18 metres above the ground, were crumbling away.

The good news is that Historic England has stepped in with a grant of £224,000 to replace more than 90metres of the ornate sandstone and limestone cornice, which runs around the roofline of the mansion’s Palladian East front.

Photograph by Sheffielder
Categories
People

The playboy Earl and a Kennedy

Photograph of Peter Wentworth-Fitzwilliam and Kick Kennedy by Turtle Bunbury

Peter Wentworth Fitzwilliam, 8th Earl Fitzwilliam (1910-1948), soldier, nobleman and peer, with a seat in the House of Lords.

He was born at Wentworth Woodhouse, just over the Sheffield border with Rotherham, married Olive Dorothea Plunket in 1933, and succeeded to the earldom in 1943.

In later years his marriage was said to be in disarray and heading for divorce.

His life was engulfed with scandal and, despite being married, he fell in love with Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy (Kathleen Cavendish, Marchioness of Hartington), sister of future US President John F. Kennedy, at the end of the Second World War after meeting the 28-year-old widow at the Dorchester Hotel in London.

Kennedy patriarch Joe had been persuaded to consider them marrying, but tragedy struck in 1948 as they took a premeeting holiday, and their plane crashed in France during a storm.

He left no son and the peerage moved to his second cousin once-removed Eric Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, but his fortune, including half the Wentworth Woodhouse estate, the Coolattin estate in County Wicklow and a large part of the Fitzwilliam art collection, was inherited by his 13-year-old daughter, Lady Juliet Tadgell.

Fitzwilliam is portrayed by Thomas Gibson in the television mini-series The Kennedys of Massachusetts (1990) and by Larry Carter in the film Lives and Deaths of the Poets (2011).