Monday, 26 September 2011

Autumn Arrives

This weekend was the Autumn Equinox, the time when night equals day and the tipping point in the calendar when Summer gives way to Winter.

A perfect time to take a walk around the Wentworth Estate.

This is a fascinating place to explore and I have written about it previously in this post

It's hard to believe that in April 1946, on the orders of Manny Shinwell (the then Labour Party's Minister of Fuel and Power) a "column of lorries and heavy plant machinery" arrived at Wentworth.

The objective was to mine a large part of the estate close to the house for coal and the area between the house and the Rockingham Mausoleum became the largest open cast mining site in Britain at that time: 132,000 tons of coal were removed solely from the gardens.

 What followed saw the mining of 99 acres of lawns and woods, the renowned formal gardens and the show-piece pink shale driveway. Ancient trees were uprooted and the debris of earth and rubble was piled 50 ft (15 m). high in front of the house.

The opencast mining continued into the early 1950s. The mined areas took many years to return to a natural state; much of the woodland and the formal gardens were never replaced.

Within the estate there are a number of follies and this weekend I visited 'The Needle's Eye'

This folly is a pyramid, about 45 feet high built of sandstone blocks topped by an ornamental urn and pierced by a tall Gothic ogee arch.
It straddles a now defunct private roadway which ran from Wentworth Woodhouse and 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!

Another local legend also states that it may be the site of a possible execution by firing squad as on one side there are several distinct musket-ball marks in the stone.

The estate is a fascinating place and I am looking forward to returning soon to explore the other Wentworth follies.

1 comment:

  1. It is amazing how the sores and scars on the landscape can be healed. Who could imagine that this was once the largest open-cast coal mining site in Britain.

    It's hard not to feel a soft spot for British eccentricity when we can enjoy such stories as this and wonder at the quirkiness of this folly.



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