Wentworth Castle Gardens

Wentworth Castle Gardens, Lowe Lane, Stainborough, Barnsley, S75 3EN
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Overview

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown is thought to have landscaped the park at Wentworth Castle in the 1750s for the 2nd Earl Strafford, creating a serpentine lake and planting clumps of trees.

Capability Brown is thought to have modernised the landscape at Wentworth Castle, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl Strafford had built a mock castle at the estate (then called Stainborough Castle) in the 1720s. William, 2nd Earl Strafford inherited the estate in 1739, and in the 1750s may have asked Brown to replace the formal gardens with more natural style landscaping. Among the features at Wentworth Castle that appear to be in Brown’s style are the serpentine lake, the Palladian bridge and the way trees have been planted in clumps.

Brown at Wentworth

There are no records of payments to Brown for work at Wentworth Castle. His likely involvement at the estate was discussed by writer George Mason in An Essay on Design in Gardening. In 1768 Mason praised the river-like water feature at Wentworth, without mentioning Brown. Later, in 1795, he mentioned it again, apparently in the belief that it was the work of Brown, and not one of his many ‘followers’. In a book published in 1883, author Joseph Wilkinson also writes that Brown was responsible for redesigning the gardens at Wentworth.

Serpentine lake

Sinuous lakes that looked like rivers were a major feature of many of Brown’s parks. The one in the deer park at Wentworth may have been formed from an existing group of lakes shown on the estate map of around 1730.

A county map of 1771 gives some idea of how Brown may have updated the Wentworth landscape. He appears to have removed the formal avenues leading from the house in the eastern area of the park and partly removed those in the western area.

Joseph Wilkinson’s description of Wentworth also talks about “winding walks” and “easy and graceful slopes”. This suggests that Brown created new circuit walks and areas of lawn in the pleasure grounds, replacing the formal terraces. Though he didn’t mention Brown, writer Horace Walpole (1717-97, Wikipedia) praised Wentworth Castle in 1756: “This place is one of the very few I really like, the situation, woods, views and the improvements are perfect in all their kinds.”

Wentworth Castle today

The estate remained in the Wentworth family until 1802. The Vernon Wentworths sold the house and gardens to Barnsley Council in 1948. Wentworth Castle gardens opened to the public in 2007 but this has not proved financially sustainable and they are now closed.

The Grade I-listed landscape is gradually being restored by a trust. The scheme has included work on the impressive Rotunda (left © Wentworth Castle Gardens) on the edge of Ivas Wood and the Duke of Argyle monument. It is hoped that future projects will focus on restoring the lakes and mirror ponds, which have been effected by mining subsidence in the area.

Sources

Historic England: www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1000415

Wentworth Castle: www.wentworthcastle.org/