A little-known slice of life from Wentworth Woodhouse’s chequered past is to be revealed in a new house tour, which launches on September 14.
From 1950 to 1977, the Grade I listed mansion in Rotherham was known as the Lady Mabel College of Physical Education, home to thousands of young women training to be PE teachers.
Lady Mabel was the sister of the 7th Earl Fitzwilliam and had grown up at Wentworth. She became a Socialist politician in South Yorkshire and the West Riding, and lived in Grenoside.
As the remaining Fitzwilliams retreated to a private apartment within the depths of the house, the staterooms and grounds came alive to the sounds of hundreds of young women training to be PE teachers.
Lady Mabel students, who all wore a cherry-red cloak as part of their uniform, went on to work in schools all over the country, but never forgot friendships made and adventures had at the stately pile.
The Lady Mabel College Old Students’ Association has 250 members around the world and has been meeting since 1990, for many years at the Rockingham Arms in Wentworth village.
Sue Gravil, 70, a past president, began leading guided tours at the house after it was taken over by Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust in March 2017, and has now helped create the monthly Lady Mabel Tour.
She will be taking visitors to see rooms used by staff and students, and explaining what life was like in the magnificent Big House and the lasting impact it had.
The tour, priced £25, includes a ‘mock-up’ of a student bedroom and many rooms previously unseen on public tours.
“I have so many happy memories of the wonderful friends I made and what we got up to,” said Sue, who studied at Wentworth from 1967 to 1970 and taught PE in Lincolnshire for 38 years. “I have lots of stories to tell, including playing badminton in the Marble Saloon, and answering the front door bell one evening to find an American man asking for directions to the golf course. He meant the famous one in Surrey!”
To book, go to www.wentworthwoodhouse.org.uk/events or call 01226 351161.