500 acres of fields, hills, woodland, lakes and formal gardens combine to create a beautiful landscape and stunning setting for Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

This landscape is not entirely natural. In fact it has been altered a lot in the last few hundred years, mainly for the families that have lived here since the land was listed as 'waste' in the Domesday Book.


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Over this time many buildings have been built on site and many taken down. The landscape has been carefully designed and meticulously managed to look 'natural'. Many of the top architects of their day have been involved in creating mansions, lodges, glass houses and follies here, including John Carr, Jeffry Wyatt (later Sir Jeffry Wyatville), William Atkinson and George Basevi Jnr. Landscape designers and gardeners, such as Richard Woods and Robert Marnock, have also had a lot of influence on what we see here today.

A number of characters stand out in the history of the Bretton Estate as being of particular interest. In the 16th century Sir Thomas Wentworth had a beautiful bed and furniture designed for Henry VIII in case he ever visited Bretton. In 1720 Sir William Wentworth built the Palladian mansion that forms the centre of today's Bretton Hall. Sir William's son, Sir Thomas Wentworth, created a lot of the parks and gardens around his father's mansion, including having the River Dearne dammed and the lakes dug out. He is said to have been quite eccentric and often entertained guests on and around his lakes with firework displays, mock naval battles and plenty of alcohol. His illegitimate daughter, Diana Beaumont, more than doubled the size of the mansion in the early 19th century and had many glass houses and conservatories built, including what became known as the 'Far Famed Dome Conservatory', considered to be the largest of its kind in the world. Diana was a very domineering woman who fell out with almost everybody that she met, including her son Thomas Wentworth Beaumont who, on inheriting the estate, auctioned off everything that reminded him of his mother.

In 1948 Wentworth Henry Canning Beaumont sold much of the estate to West Riding County Council and a year later the mansion became a training college for teachers of art, music and drama, which later became part of the University of Leeds.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park was established in 1977 by current Executive Director Peter Murray CBE who was leading a post graduate course in art education at Bretton Hall College. This is the start of the YSP story. This story is ongoing as YSP grows and develops. By visiting YSP you become part of that story.

Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has provided a grant to enable further research into the history of the Bretton Estate and the development of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Part of this project will see the delivery of a heritage archive which will complement the main YSP archive. The ‘heritage’ of the Bretton Estate has been variously interpreted to include existing documentation on: landscape and planting records; wildlife; historical and architectural features; social histories and families of the Bretton Estate; and historical maps.

Part of the grant has been used to develop a leaflet which gives an introduction to the history of Bretton Estate. You can download this leaflet by clicking on the link to the right, or pick one up next time you visit YSP.

YSP is committed to protecting and developing this historic pleasure ground while making it accessible to our visitors. There is an ambitious vision for the future – bringing history to life by conserving historic features and opening up new vistas, and increasing biodiversity by improving planting and habitats.

We will continue to work with artists to create opportunities for people to engage with sculpture in a meaningful way and provide educational programmes for young people to learn creatively. Our aim is to care for this special place where people can explore, be inspired and enjoy art and nature.

As a registered charity and in order to keep access free, YSP must raise funds to maintain its internationally-renowned artistic programme, support its learning and community programmes and manage the 500 acre landscape. We are supported by public funding, charitable grants from trusts and foundations and the crucial income we raise through our restaurant, shop and car parks. Now, more than ever, we rely on donations from visitors to maintain and develop our work.