Injured veteran ‘very proud’ to travel to roof of historic mansion

An injured veteran has said he is “very, very proud” to have had the opportunity to travel to the top of 18m-high (59ft) scaffolding on to the roof of what was once Britain’s biggest private home.

Ben Parkinson, thought to be the most severely injured soldier to survive an attack in Afghanistan, went to the top of Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

The lance bombardier, who lost both legs and suffered brain damage which affected his memory and speech in a bomb attack in 2006, said: “I’m very, very proud.

Wentworth Woodhouse is currently undergoing a major renovation (Dave Higgens/PA)
The building is currently encased in scaffolding as work is done to its vast roof (Dave Higgens/PA)

“Out of everyone they could have asked, they asked me.”

Asked more generally about the state of his current health, Mr Parkinson said: “I’m really well.”

The 35-year-old was speaking after sampling the stunning views from the top of Wentworth Woodhouse, looking out on huge statues and chimneys dating back to the Georgian times from on high.

The veteran, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was there to officially launch rooftop tours at the historic mansion.

Members of the public will soon be able to access the high roof by climbing 135 steps to the top, or by using the fully accessible lift that Mr Parkinson travelled in.

Wentworth Woodhouse rooftop tours officially open today – accessible to all – with former Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson and Gail Corbett doing the honours pic.twitter.com/zDSS1vArdv

— John Healey MP (@JohnHealey_MP) July 29, 2019

Wentworth Woodhouse was one of the great mansions of Georgian England but slid into neglect and disrepair during the second half of the 20th century.

The vast mansion is currently encased in 700 tonnes of scaffolding as contractors attempt to replace its six-tennis-courts-sized main roof as part of the first phase of a £130 million programme to save the building, whose 606ft frontage is wider than Buckingham Palace.

Last week, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes revealed to Vanity Fair that a visit by King George V and Queen Mary to the mansion in 1912 inspired the storyline for his new film, a spin-off from the ITV series.

It was bought by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust in 2017 for £7 million, prompting the start of the restoration project.

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