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Restoration Begins

Restoration Begins


As the site began to open up and information began to amass, Janie commissioned a master plan to cover the restoration of the site and its development as a public attraction.

This divided the site into project areas, to guide work on restoring the plantings and the garden buildings.

The very first building to be restored was the Gothic Temple. What remained of the temple had been encased in scaffolding for over 10 years, and could wait no longer. English Heritage funded most of the work (‘I think they felt sorry for us!' says Janie) and the temple was brought back from the brink of extinction.

Completing this first phase was a major staging post in the restoration project, both for the staff and for the project's wider reputation. For Janie, it was the high point of her working life so far.

‘Working for so long in the "jungle" as we had been, there was a need for the whole team to celebrate this first significant achievement,' she reflects.

‘Standing in the Gothic Temple, looking at the reopened views, gave us confidence and helped us realise why we were there. It was a very important moment - showing the conservation world with this microcosm of restoration that we could do the job,' she recalls with pride - and some relief.

The Trust's aim from the outset was to restore Hamilton's landscape and all its buildings as accurately and faithfully as possible, but almost straight away this approach led to issues over the long-term maintenance of the buildings.

The Gothic Temple after restoration

‘The buildings were of exquisite design, but they were flimsily built,' explains Janie. ‘Hamilton was short of money, and he was building in timber and rendering to look like stone, which caused huge problems for us.'

The team took a purist approach, putting everything back just as Hamilton had created it - albeit with a modern drainage system for the roof, which had not been there before.

‘We went a very painful route, keeping everything we could because it was Charles Hamilton. When you choose that method you have expensive on-going maintenance, and we've had to revisit the Gothic Temple at considerable expense,' says Janie.

Nowadays, she takes the view that it is the appearance and effect of the garden buildings in a landscape that matter more than putting them back exactly as they were originally made.


‘I think perhaps we needed more understanding the fun Hamilton had in creating these buildings. He was going for effect, so I think that is more important - keeping Hamilton's intentions,' she says.

However, Janie believes the lessons from the early phases of the restoration have been valuable. ‘I still think we had to go through that process. It's expensive, but otherwise you just jump to the easy option too quickly,' she reflects.