TOP PRIZES FOR NATIONAL TRUST GARDENS

Horticulturalists from two National Trust gardens have been awarded top prizes in the Horticulture Week Custodian Awards 2017.

Croome, Worcestershire, was a double-award winner, taking home the ‘Best Parks Restoration/Development Project’ for the restoration of the 18th-century parkland, as well as the ‘Best Visitor-Engagement Event’ award for ‘Brown at Work’.  Bodnant Garden, Conwy, scooped the ‘Best Gardens Restoration/Development’ for the restoration of The Bath area of the Victorian garden.

The conservation charity looks after 173 registered parks and gardens across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including 38 listed as Grade I.

Work to restore the parkland at Croome, ‘Capability’ Brown’s first large-scale commission, started when the National Trust acquired the park in 1996, following years of neglect and intensive arable farming.

Thanks to external funding of over £8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Natural England, English Heritage and others, and nearly 20 years of hard work by a team of gardeners, rangers and volunteers, the parkland has been returned to its 18th-century heyday.

National Trust Croome team with Lord Heseltine (C) Horticulture Week

The team from Croome accepting their award from Lord Heseltine (C) Horticulture Week

 

A £230,000 donation from Monument 85 and Croome Court Appeal Committee enabled the reinstatement of the lost Chinese Bridge over the river. Thousands of trees have been returned to their original positions, follies and temples have been repaired and the river and lake have been dredged.

‘Brown at Work’, an Arts Council England funded project supported by the Landscape Institute and CB300 celebrations, was a miniature landscape created at Croome in summer 2016. Tonnes of sand and simple tools enabled visitors to form their own landscape masterpieces that could be sculpted and re-sculpted by visitors to help them understand the ‘created’ landscape in which they walked.

Michael Forster-Smith, Croome’s General Manager, said: “It is fantastic that the hard work of our gardens team has been recognised by this prestigious national award. With the support of a number of generous donations and grants, one of Brown’s finest works has been returned to its former glory.

“Last year’s ‘Brown at Work’ installation was a captivating way to bring Brown’s creation to life for our visitors. While there is still work to do to at Croome, this is a great moment to reflect on how much has been achieved in a relatively short period of time. Our restored parkland is, once again, a meaningful and special place for all those who love spending time at Croome.”

The National Trust’s third award of the night came courtesy of Bodnant Garden, Conwy. Winning the ‘Best Gardens Restoration/Development Project’ award for the two year restoration of The Bath, a Victorian ornamental pool below the front lawn of the mansion, Bodnant’s garden team was rewarded for returning The Bath to a miniature exotic paradise, as it would have been in the late 19th-century.

Plans to restore The Bath were given new impetus following the winter storms of 2013/14. When an old oak tree came down, damaging walls and ripping up flower beds in the process, horticulture students working and studying at Bodnant Garden were able to develop a new planting scheme in the nearby beds.

In 2016, the walls around The Bath were repaired, plants removed and a new tropical plant scheme was introduced to take advantage of the sheltered microclimate area provides.

Bodnant Garden - The Bath in October

The stunning Bath at Bodnant Garden (C) Joe Wainwright

 

Bill Warrell, Bodnant garden supervisor, said: “To go from the devastation of the 2013 storms to this award is fantastic. It’s a credit and a real boost to the gardeners, students and volunteers who put in a huge amount of work, both repairing and renovating this lovely old part of the formal garden.

“We took the opportunity to do something ambitious and to create something fun and colourful that was a little different to the rest of the garden, while reflecting the Bath’s history. The Bath’s sheltered microclimate offered us the ideal opportunity for a little experimentation. Visitors have loved the results too and we’ve had many wonderful comments.”

Four other National Trust gardens and parks were nominated for awards, including Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire; Quarry Bank, Cheshire; Emmetts Garden, Kent and Chartwell, Kent.

Mike Calnan, Head of Gardens for the National Trust, said “I’m delighted that the hard work of our horticulturalists and gardens and parks teams has been recognised with such prestigious awards and nominations. The teams that manage National Trust gardens and parks pride themselves on maintaining the highest standards of attention to historic detail, horticultural expertise and innovation while allowing our visitors to experience these incredible places for themselves.”

The winners were announced at a prestigious ceremony at Woburn Abbey House and Gardens Sculpture Gallery. Now in its second year, the Custodian Awards nominees were this year drawn from a list almost twice as long as the inaugural list in 2016.

The awards were judged by an independent panel including Professional Gardeners’ Guild (PGG) chair Tony Arnold, Horticulture Week technical editor Sally Drury, former City of London Corporation director of open spaces Sue Ireland, London Tree Officers Association executive member Dave Lofthouse and master gardener Alan Sargent.

SQUARING THE CIRCLE: Archaeological detectives discover ‘secret square’ beneath world-famous Avebury stone circle

 

New archaeological surveys reveal unique square megalithic monument at the heart of the World Heritage Site

Archaeologists have found a striking and apparently unique square monument beneath the world famous Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site, cared for by the National Trust, was built over several hundred years in the 3rd millennium BC and contains three stone circles – including the largest stone circle in Europe which is 330m across and originally comprised around 100 huge standing stones.

A research team led by the University of Leicester and University of Southampton used a combination of soil resistance survey and Ground-Penetrating Radar to investigate the stone circle.

Their work was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and supported by the National Trust, as well as archaeologists from the University of Cambridge and Allen Environmental Archaeology.

Dr Mark Gillings, Academic Director and Reader in Archaeology in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester, said: “Our research has revealed previously unknown megaliths inside the world-famous Avebury stone circle. We have detected and mapped a series of prehistoric standing stones that were subsequently hidden and buried, along with the positions of others likely destroyed during the 17th and 18th centuries. Together, these reveal a striking and apparently unique square megalithic monument within the Avebury circles that has the potential to be one of the very earliest structures on this remarkable site.”

 

Radar in action: The Ground-Penetrating Radar survey underway (featuring Dom Barker & Kris Strutt of the University of Southampton).

 

Avebury has been subject of considerable archaeological interest since the 17th century. The discovery of new megaliths inside the monument was therefore a great surprise, pointing to the need for further archaeological investigations of this kind at the site. The survey took place inside the Southern Inner Circle, contained within the bank and ditch and colossal Outer Stone Circle of the Avebury henge. Excavations here by the archaeologist and marmalade magnate Alexander Keiller in 1939 demonstrated the existence of a curious angular setting of small standing stones set close to a single huge upright known since the 18th century as the Obelisk. Unfortunately, the outbreak of war left this feature only partially investigated.

Dr Joshua Pollard from the University of Southampton said: “Our careful programme of geophysical survey has finally completed the work begun by Keiller. It has shown the line of stones he identified was one side of a square of megaliths about 30m across and enclosing the Obelisk. Also visible are short lines of former standing stones radiating from this square and connecting with the Southern Inner Circle. Megalithic circles are well known from the time when Avebury was built during the late Neolithic (3rd millennium BC), but square megalithic settings of this scale and complexity are unheard of.”

Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust archaeologist at Avebury, said: “This discovery has been almost eighty years in the making but it’s been well worth waiting for. The completion of the work first started by Keiller in the 1930s has revealed an entirely new type of monument at the heart of the world’s largest prehistoric stone circle, using techniques he never dreamt of.  And goes to show how much more is still to be revealed at Avebury if we ask the right questions.”

The archaeologists who undertook the work think the construction of the square megalithic setting might have commemorated and monumentalised the location of an early Neolithic house – perhaps part of a founding settlement – subsequently used as the centre point of the Southern Inner Circle. At the time of excavation in 1939 the house was erroneously considered by Keiller to be a medieval cart shed.

If proved correct, it may help understand the beginnings of the remarkable Avebury monument complex, and help explain why it was built where it was.

The research team is currently compiling their research into a paper for academic publishing.

 

 

National Trust scoops Special Recognition Award at the Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence

Last night (17 May) the National Trust was awarded a one-off Special Recognition Award at the prestigious Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence.

Nominated by a panel of expert judges made up of some of the heritage sector’s most senior leaders, the National Trust was rewarded for its creativity in visitor engagement, remarkable growth in visitor numbers and its fostering of creative partnerships.

Helen Ghosh accepting the award (C) M+H Awards

Dame Helen Ghosh accepting the Special Recognition Award on behalf of the National Trust (C) Simon Callaghan

Dame Helen Ghosh, Director-General of the National Trust, accepted the award on behalf of the Trust and thanked the assembled guests and wider heritage sector for their support: “The fact that we are able to reach out and touch so many people is because of all of you and what you do on a day to day basis.

“We are enormously lucky for that support and to be able to spend more than we have ever been able to on conservation and experiences that move, teach and inspire.”

 

The conservation charity also won the Best Educational Initiative for Potter and Ponder: Sensory Experiences at Croome Court, Worcestershire. The project was described as a “remarkable, creative and innovative story of engaging children with severe learning difficulties” by the judging panel.

The Trust’s Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, was shortlisted in the Project on a Limited Budget category for its Lost Treasures, The Imagined Mansion installation, but was beaten to the award by the Hallaton in the Great War Research Group.

The glittering awards ceremony was attended by hundreds of sector professionals. Now in its fifteenth year, the awards recognise the innovators and leaders in the museums, galleries and cultural heritage visitor attractions sector.

The awards were judged by a panel of sector experts including: Dr Diana Owen, Director, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; Maggie Appleton MBE, Chief Executive Officer, Royal Air Force Museum; Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism, Historic Scotland; Bernard Donoghue, Director, ALVA; Diane Lees CBE, Director General, Imperial War Museums; Dr Matthew Tanner MBE, Chief Executive of the SS Great Britain Trust and Sam Mullins, Director, London Transport Museum.

To find out more about the awards, visit: http://awards.museumsandheritage.com/

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Heritage science gives visitors unique insight into roof conservation project at The Vyne

Scientists and archaeologists at National Trust mansion The Vyne in Hampshire are giving visitors a unique insight into their work as part of a £5.4 million project to save the former Tudor ‘power house’.

The Vyne, whose famous visitors included Henry VIII and Jane Austen, is undergoing an ambitious 18 month project to repair its leaking roof and crumbling chimneys, severely damaged in the storms of recent years.

As part of the project, partners including archaeologists, dendrochronologists and heritage science researchers from the University of Oxford are using high and low tech equipment to discover how this complex 500 year old building was constructed, then re-arranged over the centuries.

This is the first time the conservation charity has combined science and technology to this extent alongside centuries-old craft skills, which are being used to produce thousands of hand-made tiles and bricks for the project.

Visitors on rooftop walkway and contractors on roof below, © National Trust Images, Karen Legg

Visitors can watch the conservation work as it progresses from an all-access, 360° rooftop walkway. Protected by a huge weatherproof ‘shell’, the walkway looks down on dramatic views of The Vyne’s rooftops.

Monthly visits from a mobile heritage laboratory will also give visitors an opportunity to work alongside scientists from the University of Oxford, using a range of equipment to find out how they measure deterioration in historic building materials, and protect the nation’s heritage from decay.

National Trust archaeologist Gary Marshall says: “Through extraordinary scientific and technological equipment we’re finding out so much about The Vyne’s construction and we’re sharing our discoveries with our visitors.

“With a variety of different methods and technology we are able not only to pinpoint more accurately the date of The Vyne’s construction, and the materials the original builders used to create tiles and bricks, even insulation, but also show how we have made these discoveries and give visitors a chance to explore the science involved.”

Professor Heather Viles from the Oxford Rock Breakdown Laboratory explains: ‘We’ve developed a range of high and low tech kit that allows us to investigate the very serious problem of water ingress at The Vyne.

“We’ll be able to show visitors that by combining quite simple tools such as hand held moisture meters and Karsten tubes with more complex tech methods like 2D resistivity surveys, we can probe into the walls and locate areas of heavy moisture, but without causing damage.”

New dendrochronology analysis – the science of tree-ring dating – has revealed that some of The Vyne’s 16th-century timbers were recycled from an earlier building, most probably the ‘lost’ north forecourt. This was part of a larger estate that now lies beneath the north lawn.

Gary Marshall adds: “We have made some rather delightful discoveries too, such as a number of clay tiles sporting animal paw prints. Around 15 prints have been found to-date, made by Georgian and Victorian dogs of various sizes who must have walked in the wet clay while the tiles were being made all those years ago and been preserved for posterity!”

Close up of dog paw print on tile, ©National Trust Images, Karen Legg

The story of The Vyne’s roof continues inside the house where the spotlight is shone on 19th century owner William Wiggett Chute who inherited a building in great disrepair. However his extraordinary determination to save the neglected mansion secured its future.

 

1920s Arts and Crafts garden returns to its heyday as five year restoration is completed at Standen

A five year restoration project at one of the country’s most important Arts and Crafts gardens has been completed at the National Trust’s Standen in West Sussex.

The impressive house at Standen, with its breath-taking views over the High Weald and Weir Wood Reservoir, was designed for James Beale and his family in the late 19th century by leading Arts and Crafts architect Philip Webb.

The 12 acre hillside garden, however, was designed by Beale’s wife Margaret and saw its heyday in the 1920s. An accomplished gardener and plants-woman, Margaret was inspired by a world tour in 1906-07 and created a series of outdoor rooms at Standen, including a scented rose garden – the Rosery – and a lime tree walk, along with more exotic areas with bamboo, ponds and lush foliage.

Espalier apple tree with blossum.jpg

Espaliered apple tree in the restored Kitchen Garden (C) National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Over ten years ago, a group of volunteers discovered the Beale family swimming pond while clearing out some overgrown bamboo in part of the garden. Following extensive research, the garden revival project began in 2012 and is one of the biggest that the conservation charity has undertaken.

 

James Masters, head gardener at Standen explains: “In the latter part of the 20th century, Standen’s gardens saw alterations and replanting which covered or removed some of the original features. When I was first investigating the undergrowth in areas of the gardens I realised there was much more than met the eye.

“Over the years our discoveries have included lost walls, a rock garden and rare and unusual plants all overgrown by the vigorous modern planting that had masked the original beauty of Margaret Beale’s design. So we were lucky to have a wealth of archive material that has helped us research how it would have looked, ranging from family photographs, maps and receipts, to Margaret’s garden diaries which she kept for over 40 years. These have enabled us to piece it together and bring the garden back to its best.”

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The Courtyard (C) National Trust images/Andrew Butler

Among the garden features that have been restored are:

 

  • The original swimming pond and rose garden growing Margaret Beale’s coveted China pink roses.
  • A fine oak trellis rebuilt to the original design by Philip Webb. Trellis is a feature in one of Arts and Crafts designer William Morris’ wallpaper designs which is used in the house.
  • Lime trees reinstated along Grandfather’s walk.
  • 10,000 tulips including rare varieties
  • The kitchen garden and the original espaliered apple trees.
  • New views opened from the top terrace across to the Ashdown Forest.
  • New Arts & Crafts inspired planting in the house courtyard.
  • The medieval quarry face revealed alongside the drive, which inspired the Beales to build Standen in this location.

The £500,000 funding for the restoration project included generous legacies to the Trust for the purpose of garden projects and properties in Sussex.

James Masters adds: “I look back at photographs from before we started the restoration to remind myself of the remarkable changes the team of staff and volunteers has made since then. We have worked so hard to do justice to this lovely lost garden and make it shine again and I hope our visitors will enjoy discovering something new down every path and around each corner.”

A new exhibition about the garden and its revival will be taking place in the house from 6 May to 3 September and will include many of Margaret Beale’s original documents that were used for the restoration. A tulip festival is also taking place and a midsummer celebration will include talks, teas and tours from 1 June.

For more information and opening times visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/standen

 

Fit for a King: return of Kedleston’s state bed marks the end of 30 year restoration project at 18th century treasure house

The return of a lavishly carved and decorated 18th century state bed to the National Trust’s Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire marks the final stage of an exciting 30 year restoration journey.

Simon McCormack, conservation manager at the National Trust’s Kedleston Hall, puts the finishing touches to the state bed which has returned following restoration. Credit National Trust Images/James Dobson.

The restoration of 11 rooms on the state floor of the historic Hall, designed by Neoclassical architect Robert Adam as a spectacular show house for his client Nathaniel Curzon, has involved countless skilled carvers, gilders, painters and conservators. Continue reading

Future of historic treasures now secure as National Trust opens doors to new conservation studio at Knole

  • The charity’s conservation specialists will work on precious paintings, furniture and decorative objects in front of visitors 
  • State of the art conservation studio is part of largest building and conservation  project in National Trust’s history 
  • Historic rooms at Knole re-open following work to transform the interiors and bring collections to life 
  • Supported by a major National Lottery grant of £7.75m

A new state of the art conservation studio has opened its doors for the first time at one of the country’s largest and most famous stately homes, securing the future of hundreds of historic objects for the nation. Continue reading