Monday, 28 October 2013

Georgian Group Architectural Awards / Shortlist / Restoration of a Georgian Garden or Landscape

This award is especially prone to the vagaries of timing, as landscape restoration schemes are prolonged affairs: to some degree, work on organic tableaux vivants is never done. As usual, we include within the category schemes that involve the restoration of garden buildings and monuments. This year we have shortlisted three projects.

The first is Cow Pond in Windsor Great Park in Berkshire, part of an ambitious ten-year project to reinstate its lost historic landscapes that marks the tercentenary of Henry Wise’s ‘Generall Plan’. Cow Pond, as its name doesn’t suggest, is a formal canal, part of the Baroque landscape setting to Cumberland Lodge introduced by Hans Willem Bentinck, Ranger of the Great Park, following his visit to Versailles and meetings with Le Notre in 1698. By the late twentieth century it had become overgrown and had more or less regressed to swamp. The geometrical plan was no longer discernible, the banks were impenetrable in places and the scalloped semi-circle at the northern end had been consumed by dead trees. Extensive restoration included dredging and draining, construction of a Baroque footbridge and re-creation of an arbour to a 1748 design by Flitcroft, all using oak planted in the eighteenth century on the Windsor estate. The result is the recovery of one of the few surviving Baroque features at Windsor, following the removal of Wise’s Maastricht Garden in the eighteenth century. 

Second is the early nineteenth century  Repton pleasure ground at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire. Again, there had been a gradual descent into dereliction, as fabric decayed and the outlines of the designed garden became blurred. The gardening team has wrought an extraordinary transformation, magicking back from the scrub and mud the 1820s garden complete with its scattered bijou buildings. It is a remarkable achievement, involving the restoration of Henry Holland’s Chinese dairy of 1794; Repton’s pagoda, at the centre of the maze that had become an unnavigable and stunted tangle; and Repton’s classical temple. Beyond this, three lost Repton buildings were re-created: the cone house, designed as a shelter from which to view animals in the menagerie, now stands again, as does the dodecagonal wooden aviary and, perhaps most impressively, the exuberant rockery pavilion.

Finally we have the restoration of the 1713 Mausoleum to Sir James Tillie at Pentillie Castle, overlooking the Tamar near Saltash in Cornwall. Originally a watch tower, it was used by Tillie as an Arcadian retreat and in death as his mausoleum: apocryphally, his corpse was dressed and seated there until decay forced his burial and the substitution of a life-size Beerstone statue. When Pentillie was bought by its present owners in 2007 the statue was moss-covered and the mausoleum decked with ivy and in danger of imminent collapse through subsidence. Following an archaeological survey, the mausoleum and its expressive Tillie statue have been painstakingly restored, extending the life of an impressively monumental piece of architecture with eccentric innards.   

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.

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