Deborah Yaffe

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Palatial fixer-upper sells at last

By Deborah Yaffe, Nov 12 2015 02:00PM

It’s been a year since the imagination of real-estate-coveting Janeites was captured by the news that Wentworth Woodhouse, a humongously big stately home in Yorkshire with some Austen-ish associations, was for sale. And now comes word that the house – its hundreds of rooms, miles of corridors and scores of acres of parkland -- has been sold.


Alas, the £8 million price tag proved too steep for the buyer we all would have preferred: a conservation consortium that planned to open the main interior and gardens to the public, under the supervision of the UK’s heritage organization, the National Trust. The consortium planned to fund the house’s long-term upkeep by dedicating some of the peripheral spaces (and there are many!) to income-producing uses like short-term rentals, small-business workspaces and special events.


Instead, Wentworth Woodhouse went to the Lakehouse Group, a Hong Kong-based investment firm whose backers remain obscure. Presumably, however, they’re resigned to spending more than five times the purchase price – an estimated £42 million – on the extensive repairs that the decaying mega-mansion will require.


No one knows what the buyers have in mind for the building, whose four-hundred-year history includes many names familiar to Austen readers – Wentworth and Woodhouse, of course, but also Watson, D’Arcy and Fitzwilliam. We can only hope that the Lakehouse Group includes a Janeite or two who might give the rest of us a look-in one of these days.


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