The doors of Wentworth Woodhouse’s mansion are opening again this weekend.
While the gardens have been open, the house has been closed since March, when lockdown came into force.
But the Preservation Trust which owns the Grade I listed Rotherham stately home is now able to welcome visitors back in safety.
The date of opening is currently Saturday October 3, provided government guidelines do not change in coming days. From that day on, each Wednesday to Sunday morning supporters can enjoy a completely new visitor experience inside the stately home – with a raft of COVID-19 safety precautions in place.
Guests must buy admission tickets in advance and enter into the Pillared Hall in timed slots, but once inside they are free to follow a one-way route through the house.
The route takes in rooms on the ground floor and ascends the grand staircase to view some of the grand state rooms.
Room stewards will be on-hand to answer questions and activity sheets have been created to give children a fun learning experience.
The mansion’s Tea Room, Gift Shop and house tours also return from October 3rd.
“We are absolutely delighted to welcome visitors back to the house,” said Sarah McLeod, the Trust’s CEO.
“Like everyone, we have gone through testing times since March. We are also extremely grateful for an emergency grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in June, which enabled us to pay key staff to develop a new business model and also open the gardens as an alternative visitor experience.
“We are hugely thankful to everyone who came along. But being able to open the house again is so important. It’s a major fundraiser for our regeneration work, and sharing the stunning interiors and historical stories is one of the Trust’s key aims.”
All visitors are reassured they can visit in safety, says the Trust. Its comprehensive Covid-19 policy is in line with latest government guidelines and includes temperature checks for visitors, volunteers and staff and phased entry via online booking.
Face coverings are compulsory indoors, a comprehensive cleaning policy has been increased, one-way routes have been created, social distancing will be observed at all times, hand sanitising stations and track and trace policies are operating.
The Trust’s QR code for the NHS Track & Trace app will be available.In line with government advice that virus transmission risks are reduced outdoors, the Trust has strengthened its outdoor offer.
The Flock, a vast installation of 10,000 small wooden birds hand-painted by the public with memories of COVID-19 lockdown, takes over the East Front lawns from October 3 for a month. Free to view, it is set to be a major attraction.
The gardens have proved so popular they will now be open for ticketed admittance all year round and a new tour, of the mansion’s 18th century Stable Block, will be announced soon.
“Thanks to the dedication and incredibly hard work of the staff and volunteers, we are re-opening with more to offer the public than ever before,” said Sarah McLeod.