The estate village of Wentworth stretches west from the boundary wall of the park to beyond the two parish churches.
Most of the buildings date from the time of the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam (inherited 1782, died 1833) and his successors, but the site and the medieval church are ancient. At least two of the structures in the village contain evidence of pre-eighteenth-century construction – the timber-framed Ivy Cottage (possibly late-sixteenth century) and West Hall Fold (possibly seventeenth-century).
Most of the houses and cottages in the village are vernacular in style, sturdily built in the local sandstone. Green paintwork remains the clearest sign still that the dwellings share a common owner.
The more distinctive buildings include the two public houses, one of them called the Rockingham Arms, the other – the George & Dragon – providing space for the market and the annual tenants’ “feast” or fair. There is a group of almshouses which included the boys’ school (1716), a girls’ and infants’ school (1837) and a Mechanics’ Institute or Christian working-men’s club in castellated Gothic.
Until the 8th Earl vacated the Mansion in 1949, the village of Wentworth was entirely dependent on the Fitzwilliam Estate: only one other freeholder, Mr Pole the grocer, built in the village, and he sold his three cottages to the Estate early in the twentieth century.
In its heyday the Fitzwilliam Estate was the dominant employer, not only in Wentworth but also in the surrounding villages of Elsecar, Nether Haugh, Scholes and Thorpe Hesley.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the family are said to have employed roughly the same number of workers – about a hundred – in the mansion and home farm as they did in their coal mines. Later their mineral interests became far more extensive, though up to the Second World War the house still needed sixty staff to operate. The ancillary functions of the estate yard and timber yard continued into the 1970s.
The 10th Earl, knowing that the title would die with him for lack of a male heir, established the Fitzwilliam Wentworth Amenity Trust to take care of the village “for the benefit of the public, and in particular the inhabitants of the Parish” after his death in 1979.
By this means Wentworth remains an attractive place to visit, and an enviable place to live.