Channel your inner Bridgerton with Wentworth Woodhouse afternoon tea
Yorkshire’s forgotten stately home once again opens its doors to the public, after months of restoration work. Experience the mansion in all its regency opulence with a Wentworth Woodhouse afternoon tea.
The country house, located in a sleepy village just outside Rotherham, boasts the largest façade of any in Europe, and with five miles of corridors, and one room for every day of the year, there’s no surprise Sarah Mcleod, Chief Executive of Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, described the renovations as “the greatest heritage challenge of our generation.”
After years of ownership struggles, National Heritage Memorial Funding and much-needed help from the National Trust, Wentworth Woodhouse has been given a new lease of life.
However, overcoming adversity has been somewhat habitual for this historic estate, built principally for the Earl of Strafford, Thomas Wentworth in the seventieth century. The colourful figure, who began his political career as a Yorkshire parliament representative, became embroiled in infractions between the state and monarchy, which led to his execution. His great-nephew, the first Marquess of Rockingham later commissioned the brick West Front, but the Baroque style, not ostentatious enough for his reputation, led him to instruct architect Henry Flitcroft to design the more Palatial sandstone East Front, now the property’s main entrance.
When the Marquess passed away, the estate was left to his son Charles, a renowned horse racer and gambler, who eventually undertook two short spells as Prime Minister. Decades of expansion, mining damage, and financial uncertainty nearly ruined the Estate, but as the scaffolding lifted in early 2020, the scale and grandeur of the building and sweeping grounds, have been returned to their breathtaking glory.
It seems fitting then, that in honour of tradition, the Trust has launched the Wentworth Woodhouse afternoon tea, so visitors can transport themselves to a time when the house was in its element. As your footsteps creak on the floorboards, you can almost hear the whispers of servants scurrying about their day below stairs.
The Long Gallery, the elegant setting for the Wentworth Woodhouse afternoon tea, is a sight to behold. With great ochre columns, crimson floral wallpaper, and dainty fringed lamps, words don’t do justice to its majesty. On one side of the room, glass-fronted display cabinets house the finest tea sets, with a library of Encyclopedia’s on the other. Light floods in from arch windows at the end of the gallery, illuminating the gold-trimmed mirrors, leading the eye up to an ornamental moulded ceiling.
But the real showstopper is the view. A crisp emerald lawn sweeps ahead, offering walks across the rolling meadows and herbaceous borders. The grounds Ionic Temple lies to the Southwest, with its oldest surviving tree, a seventeenth-century Mulberry bush straight in front. So stunning are the gardens, that the Trust has installed two wooden day cabins which can be booked for special occasions overlooking the fifty acres.
What to expect from Wentworth Woodhouse’s Afternoon Tea
Back in the Long Gallery, Wentworth Woodhouse afternoon tea is served on Saturdays and Sundays between 11.30 pm and 1.30 pm, and is considered one of the best places to have afternoon tea in Yorkshire.
Expect pristine white cotton tablecloths and cutlery so polished, you can see your reflection in every teaspoon. Thirty staff make light work of hand-washing the Wedgewood Royal Albert bone china, which features the quintessentially English country rose in bouquets of pink and yellow. Crooking your little finger as you sip from your teacup, is entirely optional.
Choose from Wentworth’s full-bodied signature blend, fruity Darjeeling, or a pot of citrusy Earl Grey. Fancy something a little bubblier? Savour a glass of prosecco or Chapel Down’s Brut English sparkling wine, made in the traditional ‘champagne method’.
Chief Operating Officer Paula Kay, who joins Wentworth Woodhouse after a long career at Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate, has brought with her an attention to detail, evident from the shape of the glass flutes to the fold of the napkins and the precise way the sugar is served.
The provenance of the ingredients too is a huge part of the experience. With the milk from a local dairy farm, Yorkshire brie, Catherine’s Choice preserves and chutneys and bread freshly baked down the road in Sheffield. The smoked salmon and prawns are both MSC certified, and the eggs are all free-range, but the most convenient of ingredients can be found just a stone’s throw away, at the Wentworth beehives and herb gardens. The chefs handpick honey and rosemary for the fragrant shortbread biscuit, a real highlight on the cake stand.
Sink your teeth into the soft finger sandwiches of wafer-thin cucumber and crème cheese, coronation chicken, or home-baked ham. Move your way up to the second tier, which includes a light as air rectangle of classic Victoria sponge dusted with icing sugar. There’s a gingery kick to the strawberry and mascarpone mousse, finished with a pistachio crumb, and bitter swirls of hazelnut and dark chocolate ganache are encased in perfect circles of pastry. To crown it all off, buttery currant scones beg to be slathered in clotted cream and seasonal jam.
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