Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Centuries-old worker's graffiti at Wentworth Woodhouse

Graffiti on a beam Image copyright Dean Atkins
Image caption The mark of Solomon Salkeld left in 1830 at Wentworth Woodhouse

Graffiti and handprints from craftsmen dating back more than 200 years have been uncovered during renovation work at a stately home.

The marks at Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, were found in timbers during preparatory work to fix a leaking roof.

More than 20 messages, some dating back to 1806, have been found.

A preservation trust bought the house, which stands in parkland, for £7 million in 2017.

The messages were discovered by specialists examining the roof before the replacement of 14,000 tiles begins on Monday.

The Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust estimates it will need up to £200 million to restore the house.

Built between 1725 and 1750, the front of the house is more than 600ft (180m) long. The main house has more than 200 rooms.

Graffiti has been found in leadwork on top of the roof, under the slate and across the roof beams with the most modern marks in the roof date from the 1950s.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Scenes in the film Darkest Hour were shot at Wentworth Woodhouse
Image copyright Dean Atkins
Image caption Craftsmen have long left a mark on buildings they built
Image copyright Dean Atkins
Image caption Before its sale the property was said to be the largest privately-owned house in Europe.

Master builder Paul Furniss has been researching the lives of some of the the stonemasons, carpenters, roofers, and sheet leadworkers who left their marks.

He said: "One was left in the 1830s by Solomon Salkeld, a Chesterfield man baptised in 1792 who became a painter for the Earl of Fitzwilliam and eventually emigrated to the USA."

Mr Furniss said there could be yet more marks uncovered, even some made by a distant ancestor.

"My family were originally from Wentworth and were stone masons who built the stable block between 1762-1773, after the main house was built."

Image copyright Dean Atkins
Image caption Paul Furniss admits he's left his mark "in a secret place in the house for someone to find one day"
Image copyright PA
Image caption The mansion was built by the Marquesses of Rockingham between 1725 and 1750

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