Part 2: Restoring the Hard Landscaping

Part 2: Restoring the Hard Landscaping

1

From the beginning, the working party's intention was to return the garden as nearly as possible to its original condition, but a severe shortage of funds meant that compromises were inevitable along the way.

Leslie Johnson recalls adjudicating many keen debates within the committee in the early days. One of these was over the pergola, which was restored during the winter of 1973/4 by the Crown Estate Commissioners.

It was in a very poor state and urgently needed to be made safe. Several of the piers were unstable, many of the crossbeams were rotting from the top down and most of the stringer beams were so fragile and decayed that they were in danger of collapse.

There was not enough money available to return the pergola exactly to its original condition, so to avoid replacing all the cross beams, the top two inches of each beam were cut off, where most of the rot had occurred.

The pergola in need of
restoration in 1973.

Reduced-height
crossbeams on the restored
pergola in 1975.

Those beams that had to be replaced entirely were made at a reduced size to match the remaining beams.

New wood was drawn from the Forest of Dean, which had been Lutyens' original source of wood for the pergola. (The pergola beams were restored to their original dimensions by the Hestercombe Gardens Trust in 2004.)

The Crown Estate applied to the Historic Buildings Council for a grant of some £4,000 to fund the restoration of the stonework, but it is not known whether this money was made available. Jim carried out repairs to the paving as winter work, while the Crown Estate brought in external contractors to repair the crumbling steps, drystone walling and balustrading.

Jim re-laid the paving in the Dutch Garden, which had sunk by 18 inches in some places, together with much of the paving in the rill gardens and the Plat, and areas of lawn that had also subsided.

Ever resourceful, Wilf and Jim used lumps of concrete waste (left over after the military occupation in the 1940s) from the Combe behind the house as hardcore, to restore the levels.

Soil and sand, also drawn from the Combe, were spread over the hardcore, and the stones re-laid in exactly the same positions as before.

Although the paving looks random, its apparently artless construction was highly controlled by Lutyens - each stone, when lifted, was found to have a number on the back.

Over the years, around 6,000 metres of stone walling, 900 square metres of stone paviours, and 60 metres of balustrading were repaired, using lime mortar in keeping with the original construction methods.

Restoring the paving in the
Dutch Garden in 1977.

Gardener Jim Stagg re-lays the paving in the Rose Garden in 1975.

Restoring the rills