Claims made by Chancellor Philip Hammond in his Autumn statement that he is saving a stately home which provided the inspiration for the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice have been dismissed by experts.
The Chancellor announced he was handing £7.6 million to repair Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham, which is said to be the real-life Pemberley, where the novel’s heartthrob Mr Darcy lives. He said: “It is said to be the inspiration for Pemberley in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.”
However the official Jane Austen society said that those claims were nonsense. A spokesperson said there was no evidence at all that Ms Austen ever visited the home, and that the character of Fitzwilliam Darcy would not have been wealthy enough to afford to live there.
The spokesperson said that there was no link to Ms Austen to justify Mr Hammonds claims, adding: “There are other places such as Chatsworth, which lay claim to be the model for Pemberley.” Ms Austen is recorded as having visited the county of Derbyshire where Chatsworth sits, in 1811, which was two years before Pride and Prejudice was released.
Wentworth Woodhouse is the biggest private home in Europe. It took 25 years to build, once employed 1,000 staff including a bear keeper, has 350 rooms and sits on a whopping 82 acres of land, which is the equivalent of nearly 30 baseball fields.
The Duke of Devonshire: “Some people say Chatsworth is the inspiration for Pemberley and some people say its Wentworth Woodhouse – we’d have to ask Jane Austen for a definitive answer. Either way, as a member of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, I’m delighted with the news that the government is to step in with a grant for the preservation of this wonderful building.”
Mr Hammond said the home was a key piece of Northern heritage which needed to be protected. He lambasted the 1946 Labour government for letting a coal mine operate within the grounds of the house, which he said was nothing short of “cultural vandalism.”