In 1983, a major grant from the new National Heritage Memorial Fund, and then a grant from English Heritage the following year, enabled work to begin in earnest on putting the landscape and its buildings back to what they once had been.
Elmbridge Borough Council leased Painshill to the Trust on a 99-year lease, and Land Use Consultants drew up a master plan for the restoration of the site and creating public access, involving several phases over a period of 30 years.
All the research information that had been gathered was compared and analysed, and superimposed on an 1870 Ordnance Survey map. The resulting routes, views and sequence of zones were tested on the site so that final plans could be drawn up showing the main paths, views and character areas to be restored.
In 1984, staff and volunteers began the detailed work, aiming to restore the Park and its follies ‘as nearly as possible to Charles Hamilton's original design and concept of a landscape garden with a variety of scenery, for the benefit of the public and with the aim of making the Park a self-supporting enterprise'.
Trees were thinned and cleared, and the main areas of open parkland and ornamental planting began to be opened up again. The network of paths began to re-emerge, while new tracks for maintenance vehicles were laid. The Gardener's Cottage in the walled garden was restored and converted to provide office space.
The masterplan divided the site into project areas around individual buildings and planting. Over the next 15 years, work progressed from the areas at the heart of Hamilton's design around the lake and out into the wider landscape.
A view across the southern
part of the lake at Painshill.
Photograph by Edouard Finet,
October 2004. Copyright
Painshill Park Trust, 2004
The Gothic Temple
The first building to be restored was the Gothic Temple, together with the area of planting known as the Amphitheatre. This was completed in the spring of 1985, and the following year the restoration of the Grotto began, a long and complex task that has still to be completed.
The lake was dredged in 1986, and its banks shored up with timber. In 1987, the cascade, pumps and Bramah waterwheel were restored, while the pump house was rebuilt.
View of the exterior of the Grotto at Painshill Park.
Photograph copyright: Mike Lambert.
The restoration of the Ruined Abbey was also started in 1987. Attention moved to the Chinese Peninsula in 1988, and the Chinese Bridge linking the peninsula to Grotto Island was rebuilt. The following year, the Gothic Tower reopened.
The Turkish Tent was the next feature to be recreated, and was opened by the Trust's patron, Prince Charles, in 1995.
In 1998, the Painshill team won the Europa Nostra medal for the ‘exemplary restoration, from a state of extreme neglect, of a most important 18th-century landscape park and its extraordinary buildings'.
The Gothic Tower, Painshill Park,
photographed by Fred Holmes
in June 2006. Copyright