On the outskirts of Rotherham in South Yorkshire, there's a stately home going by the name of Wentworth Woodhouse. It's one of the grandest Georgian houses in England and at almost 185 metres, lays claim to the longest facade of any home in Europe.
In the surrounds of this imposing stately home, the keen-eyed explorer will discover several curious tributes. Hidden amongst the trees are several intriguing historical monuments, known as the Wentworth follies.
The Needle's Eye
Made from ashlar blocks of local sandstone crowned with an ornamental urn and pierced by a tall Gothic ogee arch. This curious pyramidal structure stands just shy of 14 metres and no one knows why it's here. It's believed to have been built around 1720 but little else is known about it.
Legend has it that Earl Fitzwilliam built the structure as a result of a wager that he could drive his horse and carriage through the eye of a needle. The position on the old coach road supports this story, however, the size of the archway is probably only large enough for a small gun carriage.
There's also evidence of possible execution by firing squad on one side, where several distinct musket-ball marks can be seen in the stone.
Much more is known about this building as an inscription on the front explains its existence. Built for the first Marquis of Rockingham in 1746-8, this triangular lighthouse-like structure commemorates the defeat of the Jacobite uprising of 1745.
Designed by Henry Flitcroft, Hoober Stand lies on the highest ridge in the Wentworth area (157m above sea level). It commands fine views all around from the viewing platform at the top of the Stand.
Inside access is limited to Sunday afternoons in the summertime only.
Built under the direction of 1st Marquis, Thomas Watson Wentworth in 1744, this temple is also attributed to Henry Flitcroft. This octagonal building was originally on a more open hill before Sir Humphrey Repton planned the current planting that surrounds it.
This sandstone ashlar has an open-sided octagon with a vaulted dome, Doric. Each side has 3 nosed steps set between square stylobates of attached columns which have 4 bands of stalactite rustication. Round-arched opening to each side with moulded plinth, impost and archivolt with a console-shaped keystone. Cornice breaks forward over columns to support ball finials each with a band of stalactite rustication. (Two are missing)
Situated in the Mausoleum Wood near the hamlet of Nether Haugh, Rockingham Mausoleum was commissioned in 1783. Created by the 4th Earl of Fitzwilliam in memory of his uncle Charles the 2nd Marquis of Rockingham.
Standing at 27.5 metres, the enclosed hall on the ground floor contains a statue of the 2nd Marquis by Joseph Nollekens and casts of the original busts of eight of his closest friends.
Above is an open colonnade with an arcade of Corinthian columns surrounding an empty sarcophagus. The third level is a cupola resembling a Roman temple.
The Mausoleum is occasionally open at weekends but is generally off-limits.
35 metres tall, Keppel’s Column is the highest of Wentworth's follies. It was originally planned to be higher and capped with a statue of Admiral Keppel, but the Marquis of Rockingham ran out of funds.
Admiral Keppel was a friend of the Marquis who was court-martialled following a naval defeat at the hands of the French in 1777. The Marquis had previously planned to build a pillar to mark the southern boundary of his park, but following Keppel’s acquittal, he adapted the design. Aiming to create a triumphal pillar by way of celebrating what he saw as a defeat for the government.
Unfortunately, the structure was never completed, leaving an oddly proportioned tower which seems to bulge slightly due to the entasis about three-quarters of the way up. If the column had been completed to its full height this architectural effect should have made it appear straight from a distance.
Due to safety concerns, Keppel's Column cannot be entered but it can be viewed at close quarters from the public footpath running from Admiral’s Crest in Scholes.
Photographing Wentworth's Follies
The Needle's Eye, Hoober Stand and Doric Temple are within walkable proximity of Wentworth Village. A 2-3 hour return leisurely walk would take in these three follies and land you in the village pub for a well-deserved pint after that 5-mile hike.
Be advised that Doric Temple is located in the grounds of Wentworth Woodhouse and although fenced off it can be accessed via a gate. (Requesting access from one of the ground keepers is advisable to avoid any unsavoury 'what tha doin' on mi land', bugger off daahn thee own end' type situations)
Rockingham Mausoleum is a little further on, found in the village of Nether Haugh, which is around 2 miles from Wentworth Woodhouse (1.5 miles from Hoober Stand). Further still stands Keppel's Column, situated in the village of Scholes (3 miles south of Wentworth Woodhouse). Transport is advisable for this one.
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