10 year fight for listed structure ends in victory
26 September 2012
A dilapidated Victorian conservatory more than a century old is to rise again at Wentworth Castle Gardens in South Yorkshire, after a lengthy fundraising effort finally reached its target.
The finely-detailed Grade II listed iron conservatory looks out over the Pleasure Grounds at Wentworth (a RHS partner garden) and was built in 1877 by Thompson and Fawkes of Chelmsford. It was at the cutting edge of 19th-century technology, with electric lighting and heating, and in its heyday displayed orchids, palms and ferns collected from around the world by the Vernon-Wentworth family.
However after the family left Wentworth sixty years ago the ornate and fragile structure gradually fell into neglect.
'Twenty years of not being heated has caused very rapid deterioration in the metalwork,' says Claire Herring, director of the Wentworth Castle Heritage Trust. 'The structure was never designed to take the weight of snow, so once there wasn't heating in the winter if there was any kind of snowfall it did quite a lot of damage.'
In 2003 the crumbling building featured on the BBC2 programme 'Restoration', and although it didn't win, a nine-year campaign began to raise the £3.7 million needed to restore it.
Now, with £2.5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as other grants and hundreds of private donations, work has begun on dismantling the main structure so that local restoration specialists Shepley Engineering can clean off layers of paint from its 4,000 individual components.
A new plant display is planned for the newly-restored glasshouse, recreating the Vernon-Wentworth's plant hunting exploits with a display of temperate plants from around the world. It's hoped the Conservatory will open to visitors from August next year.