MAJOR conservation work which will see a historic castle brought back to life over the next five months is underway.

Executed by the National Trust and funded by Barnsley Council, Stainborough Castle, is part of a programme of works to improve the condition of the site within the first three years of a 25-year partnership lease at Wentworth Castle Gardens.

Work started on the folly castle - situated in the heart of South Yorkshire’s only Grade I-listed parklands - on Monday and is expected to be completed by the summer.

Specialist stone masons will be replacing eroded stones, repointing joints where the mortar has perished, removing vegetation growth, and replacing perished timber lintels.

Stainborough Castle was built by Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford between 1727 and 1730.

It was meant to be seen for miles around and give the impression that Stainborough was the true ‘ancient’ family home of the Wentworth’s rather than nearby Wentworth Woodhouse, following a bitter family feud.

Thomas named it Stainborough Castle and changed his house from Stainborough Hall - which now houses Northern College - to Wentworth Castle for this reason.

Over 300 years later, only one half of the castle’s front still stands.

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Coun Tim Cheetham said: “Wentworth Castle Gardens is a beautiful place to visit and it’s wonderful to have it right here on our doorstep in Barnsley.

“The conservation work taking place on the folly castle will have a positive impact on visitors for years to come. Through partnership working with the National Trust and Northern College we are securing a sustainable future for the well-loved visitor attraction.”

Responsibility for the site reverted to Barnsley Council during 2017, when the Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust which had been operating the site was unable to make the enterprise financially viable, with the site then closed to the public.

Leader of Barnsley Council Sir Steve Houghton described the site as a ‘nationally important’ visitor attraction.

“We have a duty to look after it and by investing in it now we are safeguarding its future, not just in the short-term, but for the next 25 years, while providing an extra boost to the local economy,” he added.

“People will be coming into the borough to visit it as well as our other visitor attractions. It’s creating jobs and bringing the National Trust to South Yorkshire for the first time so it’s putting Barnsley on the map for the right reasons in that way, too.”

The conservation work is also being carefully co-ordinated to minimise the impact on Wentworth Castle Gardens’ resident bats.

Specialist bat boxes are being erected for the four residing species and an ecologist will be at the castle each day to ensure these nocturnal creatures are not disturbed.

All bat species, their breeding sites and resting places are fully protected by law and specialist licence has been sought from Natural England to protect them during the work.

The National Trust’s general manager for Wentworth Castle Gardens, Sylvia Ward, said: “Our visitors will start to see scaffolding go up on the main towers this month.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience during this time and are working to keep disruption to a minimum.

“This building work will ensure that the castle is here for people to enjoy long into the future.”