Hotel plans are submitted at last for Bretton Hall in the middle of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In its rooms, The League of Gentleman was hatched. Would guests ever leave?
It’s been a long and sometimes nervous wait, but the hole in the middle of the excellent Yorkshire Sculpture Park looks set to be filled at last.
Never as stark a contrast as its notorious counterpart in central Bradford, the empty space of Bretton Hall has nonetheless detracted from the glories of its park, as visitors stare at the unused 18th century grandeur and mutter about recession.
Now a long-awaited planning application has been submitted to Wakefield council by Rushbond PLC for the massive and posh hotel which has been talked about ever since Leeds University’s famous extension campus moved out in 2007. The document proposes an initial 77 bedrooms in the grade II* listed Georgian house, with 120 in due course. Alongside it would be 39,000 sq ft of offices, rising to 100,000 if all goes well.
The jigsaw still needs a hotelier or spa operator, or investment company, to make the concept a reality, which will be the acid test of whether economic recovery is sufficient to bring the building back to life. Rushbond’s managing director Jonathan Maud is optimistic; the scheme comes fully-detailed and costed by architects, down to the restoration of period features; and the catchment is exceptional: visitor numbers at the Sculpture Park top 350,000 a year and the nearby Hepworth Wakefield has beaten its own first-year target five times, with over 500,000.
Maud reckons that 400 lasting jobs will be created by the business park, looking out over fields dotted with Henry Moores and other sculpture in rolling green countryside less than two miles from the M1. For all the travails since the banking crash, his firm has maintained a track record of delivery over its 25 years, most recently the conversion into shops of restaurants of Leeds’ Majestic cinema, famously the home of the longest run of the Sound of Music in history.
Bretton Hall was started by the fabulously wealthy Wentworth family whose palaces Wentworth Castle and Wentworth Woodhouse are behemoth landmarks of South Yorkshire, and finished by the Beaumonts who were also never troubled for cash. But its real glory days came under the legendary reign of Sir Alec Clegg as chief education officer of the West Riding, which turned it into a college. The tradition continued when Leeds University took over in 2001.
Alumni are many and various, with much potential for the naming of suites. All three main protagonists in The League of Gentlemen, Steve Pemberton (1989), Mark Gatiss (1989) and Reece Shearsmith (1990), are among them. A night in the Royston Vazey Room would be unforgettable.
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