Lost Gardens of Barnsley
Castle Gardens and Stainborough Park
Diaz Petersen, Hilary Taylor and Stephen Elliott
Castle and Stainborough Park estate lies to the west of Barnsley,
in the heart of a landscape transformed by coal mining, yet remarkably
it retains significant aspects of the character of early phases
of its development. The Grade I-registered gardens and historic
estate are now in the care of the Wentworth Castle and Stainborough
Park Heritage Trust and are open to the public, and the Grade
I-listed house, Wentworth Castle, is now a college for continuing
house from the south with its Palladian front and, below,
a plan of its restored grounds
The most significant
transformation of Stainborough Park took place in the 18th century
following the purchase by Thomas Wentworth (1672-1739) of the
estate and its manor house from the Cutler family in 1708. Thomas
was a man of wealth, influence and success, who had been thwarted
in an expectation of inheriting the Strafford earldom and the
neighbouring estate of Wentworth Woodhouse. His choice of location
was certainly fuelled by what had become a bitter rivalry. As
it happened, his nephew, who had inherited the title, died young,
and Thomas was ennobled as the 1st Earl of Strafford in 1711.
It was at this point that Thomas began to develop a grand estate
befitting his title. He subsumed the Cutler house within a grand
Baroque edifice and surrounded it with elaborate gardens, monuments,
pools and fountains.
Thomas's son William (1722-1791) inherited
the estate in 1739 and continued in the spirit of competition
with his cousins at Wentworth Woodhouse. He constructed a new
wing in the Palladian style and enhanced the gardens and park
with further monuments, more 'naturalistic' planting, and an early
serpentine lake to create the illusion of a picturesque river
when viewed from the house.
In 1802 the estate was inherited by
Frederick William Thomas Vernon (1795-1885), who assumed the name
of Vernon-Wentworth. Assisted by
the sale of mining rights beneath the estate, the Vernon-Wentworths
further embellished the 18th-century landscape, which already
represented an unusual survival of early 18th-century tastes in
formal gardens. Their most significant contributions in the 19th
and early 20th centuries included a conservatory (featured on
the first series of the BBC's Restoration), extensive rhododendron
planting, and vineries, now lost, as well as other features of
the walled gardens.
Following the Second World War, the house,
gardens and part of the estate were sold to the Barnsley Education
Committee. While the custodianship of the local education authority
and council in many respects helped to preserve aspects of the
estate, a number of subsequent developments have had a significant
impact on the landscape. These have included new buildings and
a car park near the house, a sewage treatment plant, tennis courts,
a football pitch, and open-cast mining. Much of the surviving
18th-century parkland was lost to farming.
were made in the latter part of the 20th century to recover aspects
of the gardens, they continued to become overgrown and increasingly
shaded by a predominantly evergreen canopy and the vigorous growth
of the extensive rhododendron collection. As on many historic
estates, the pressures of time and lack of resources led to an
inevitable deterioration, despite the considerable effort invested
by the people who have worked on and cared for the site, and by
the end of the 20th century, several buildings and monuments were
on the verge of being lost.
was formed between the Northern College and the Barnsley Metropolitan
Borough Council to further restoration plans for the estate, and
in 2002 the Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust
was formed. Ownership of the main buildings and gardens was transferred
to the trust, and in 2004 the Vernon-Wentworth family donated
the wider historic landscape as well. During this time, a very successful
campaign for funding was initiated to halt the decline and to
begin a programme of restoration.
The first phase of a challenging
site-wide restoration project is now drawing near to completion.
The works, with a budget of approximately £15.5 million, have
included buildings, landscape and parkland restoration, new college
and visitor facilities housed within the Home Farm, two new car
parks and a new entrance garden. Funding to
support the project has been received from the Heritage Lottery
Fund, Yorkshire Forward, English Heritage, the European Union,
Natural England, Defra, South Yorkshire Forest, Waste Recycling
Environmental Limited (under the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme),
the Learning and Skills Council, and others.
The design team included
Purcell Miller Tritton as lead design and conservation architects,
Hilary Taylor Landscape Associates Ltd as historic landscape consultants,
Arup as engineers, Buro Four as project managers, and Rex Proctor
& Partners as quantity surveyors and planning supervisors.
contractors were Quarmby Construction Company Ltd (Home Farm and
Wentworth Castle), William Anelay Ltd (monuments), P Casey (Land
Reclamation) Ltd (access and landscape works), Lotus Construction
Ltd (kitchen courtyard and coach house), Practicality Brown (South
Avenue planting), and Lowther Forestry (tree works, woodland planting
and parkland fencing).
BUILDINGS AND MONUMENTS
26 listed buildings within the grade I-registered landscape. The
recently completed monuments project concentrated on the seven
monuments in the most perilous state of decay, five of which were
on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register.
project's main aim of making the monuments safe and accessible
to the public, the strategy was to conserve the existing historic
features and, where appropriate, reinstate features that represented,
contributed to and enhanced the significance and values associated
with each period of development. Repairs were designed to respect
the quality of materials, performance, techniques and craftsmanship
of the original fabric.
Over and above the normal technical challenges
that arise out of a project of this nature, the special challenges
of the project can perhaps be summarised under four headings:
geographical, logistical, ecological and archaeological.
the monuments are scattered over 268 hectares of parkland. The Rotunda
restoration required the construction of a 500m-long temporary
access road, while the Duke of Argyll Monument was only accessible
over fields with a tractor and trailer.
Logistically, it had been
decided to subdivide the wider £15m restoration project down into
smaller and more manageable staggered contracts so as not to overwhelm the
design team or one single contractor. It was therefore deemed
essential to have the full-time site presence of a resident site
Ecological constraints were placed on
the project by the presence of great crested newts, bats and,
to a lesser extent, badgers. This necessitated pre-contract surveys
to identify the scale of mitigation necessary prior to licence
applications being submitted to Defra.
Newt mitigation consisted
of hand searches to remove the creatures from worksites and the
erection of special fencing around each monument to stop them
returning while work was in progress. Bat mitigation measures
resulted in an embargo on pointing work during the August to November
Lastly, several monuments required archaeological
surveys and watching briefs, including Stainborough Castle in
particular, as its hilltop location was reputed to have been an
two remaining drum towers. The plastered wall shows that this was
once its interior.
The sham medieval
castle comprising gatehouse-keep and curtain wall with four square
towers (one for each of Thomas Wentworth's children) was built
on the highest point of the estate. It is listed Grade II* and
was constructed between 1727 and 1730.
The gatehouse was not well
founded and had to be rebuilt in 1765 by William Wentworth. Nevertheless,
from 1956 to 1980 two of the drum towers and great hall gradually
collapsed leaving only two drum towers and the entrance vault standing.
Subsequent rain penetration into the top of the entrance vault
had flushed the mortar from the joints, and the single stone stair,
constructed from stone treads bearing into tapering slots in the
stone newel, had weathered beyond repair, rendering the whole
structure unsafe for public access.
approach adopted was not only to safely consolidate the structure
as a ruin in terms of stone indenting, lime-mortar
pointing, rough-racking of exposed wall heads, and the installation
of wrought-iron grilles and railings, but also to open up the
structure to the public and interpret the ruin.
The entrance vault
was consolidated in-situ by inserting temporary propping and installing
a mesh-reinforced concrete crust over the top following the shape
of the vault. A level reinforced concrete slab was then cast above
this, creating a viewing deck in the position of the great hall.
The original internal walls, now exposed to the outside, were
lime rendered, integrating fragments of original decorative plaster,
to make it clear that they were once internal walls.
A new galvanised
steel spiral stair with top viewing platform has been installed
in one of the full-height towers to reinstate the outward views
once enjoyed by the Wentworth family.
the Rotunda lost its roof in a fire, its colonnade became
unstable. It has now been tied back with stainless steel ties.
II* Rotunda, was probably built by William Wentworth between 1742
and 1746. The design is very similar to the Temple of Sybil at
Tivoli, near Rome, which William may have seen whilst on a 'grand
tour' of Europe after the death of his father. It comprises a
central stone drum over a basement vault with an encircling colonnade
and entablature. A crown fire in the closely surrounding trees
in the 1980s led to the loss of the timber and lead roof. (In
a crown fire, which is the most dangerous and destructive class
of woodland fire, flames rise up the trees and across their crowns.)
This has had a catastrophic effect on the structure. The outer
colonnade was no longer tied to the inner drum and with rain penetration
into the wall heads and basement vault, the colonnade has moved
outwards, the entablature joints have substantially opened, and
the expansion of iron cramps has resulted in spalling of the carved
was not available to take down and rebuild the colonnade, nor
to reinstate the roof, radial stainless-steel rods were installed
to tie the colonnade to the drum, and the wide open joints of
the entablature were pieced in with stone, but omitting the carved
detail to distinguish these as a joint filling. Iron cramps were
cut out and replaced with stainless steel, and the spalled stone
was made good with modelled plastic stone repairs. The wall heads
were capped with lead and the floor over the basement vault was
waterproofed, with substructure drainage installed under the colonnade
walkway. Finally the monument was cleaned with three per cent
hydrofluoric acid to remove the heavy sulphate deposits.
of the most controversial proposals of the project was the relocation
of the 1768, Grade II, Strafford Gate, which was erected by William
Wentworth over one of the principal entrances to the estate.
Gate in its new position adjacent to the Menagerie House
problem was that the location of the proposed car park (which
is discussed below) required the use of this entrance to the park,
but visitor coaches would be too large to pass safely through
the arch. After carefully considering all the options, it was
concluded that the best solution was to move the gate 20 metres
into the park on the same axis. This would preserve the tunnel
effect of the approach along a tight holly-lined lane and maintain
its 'group value' with the neighbouring Menagerie House. Fortunately
English Heritage agreed and listed building consent for the move
was granted. To assist visitor interpretation the original footprint
position of the gate was delineated in stone setts.
badly spalled brickwork and external envelope of the Gun Room
has now been restored, safeguarding its magnificent interior
for future restoration.
pavilion, known as the Gun Room because of its Victorian usage,
was originally built in 1732 as a banqueting house or bath house.
It has fine internal decorative plasterwork, and is listed Grade
II*. Over the years the brick and stonework of its western facade
had eroded dramatically as a result of a simple flaw in the original
design which caused the eaves to drip. Soluble sulphate deposits,
salt crystallisation and frost action and the accumulation of
water at the base of the building did the rest.
With the monies
available the defects of the external envelope were tackled, thus
safeguarding the interior for future restoration. The eroded stonework
was replaced with new Blaxter sandstone, the spalled bricks were
cut out and replaced with matching bricks from stocks held on
site, and cement-mortar pointing was replaced with lime mortar.
To assist drainage and drying out a field drain was laid in a
gravel-filled trench around the perimeter.
was also carried out to the marble statue of Thomas Wentworth,
the first Earl of Strafford (1744), the Duke of Argyll Monument
(1744) and the Corinthian Temple (1766). Following cleaning trials,
the Thomas Wentworth statue, by Flemish-born sculptor
J M Rysbrack, was cleaned by Cliveden Conservation using a mild
detergent (five per cent Synperonic solution in de-ionised water)
and an ammonium carbonate poultice to break down the heavy sulphate
deposits. The others, both of sandstone, were cleaned to remove
sulphate deposits using three per cent hydrofluoric acid.
monument to Thomas Wentworth before and after cleaning and
Corinthian Temple overlooking the south lawn
like other historic landscapes, is a complex site with varied
significances. These include the multiple phases of its historical
development and its environmental, economic and social importance.
While Wentworth has been home to the Northern College for many
years, the opening of the gardens and parkland to the public introduced
both the need to accommodate increased access for people arriving
at the site, and the need to make it as accessible as possible
for all to enjoy.
Duke of Argyll Monument after cleaning and, below, a detail
showing the sulphate deposition on the sandstone that was
governing restoration within the gardens has been to rejuvenate
and restore the most significant surviving features from each
phase of the gardens' development, to provide year-round interest
for visitors to the gardens, and to make as many parts of this
very steep landscape accessible to as many people as possible.
Planting in each of the areas has been carefully chosen to be
appropriate to the relevant period.
The gardens contain many significant
18th- and 19th-century plants, as well as being home to a variety
of protected fauna, including badgers and nesting birds. These
sensitivities have particularly influenced the timing and method
of working, and ground-intrusive works have also been restricted
where archaeological sensitivities are thought to exist.
the gardens have been planned with great care, and limitations
have been placed on the size of machinery that may be used during
construction works, which have included substantial tree works,
the creation of a new entrance garden, and the re-surfacing and
creation of a network of footpaths. The paths have been surfaced
primarily with an inert self-binding gravel, and fibre-reinforced
The most significant early 18th-century component of the
gardens is popularly referred to as the 'Union Jack' garden, a
rare survival of the type of wilderness garden popular in the
late 17th and early 18th centuries. A large sweet chestnut, for
which records survive of its planting in the early 18th century,
and several yew hedging plants remain from the creation of this
garden. However, the yews and several hollies had grown into trees
and they have now been reduced in size, and the hedges replanted. An attempt
has not been made to restore the planting in this area to its
original composition, which included 'shredded' young oaks, maintained
with only a tuft of leaves at the top, but instead to provide
a garden full of colour and scent within the structure of the
original 18th-century garden.
The 19th-century influence on the
site is still represented by the extensive rhododendron collection,
which has been surveyed and catalogued; an azalea garden; a flower
garden (which at various times has contained roses and bedding
schemes); and the now derelict conservatory, which is to be restored
in the next phase of the project.
The gardens not only represent
a remarkable survival of 18th-century landscape design, but are
also home to three National Collections of plants: Camellia x
williamsii, Rhododendron species, and Magnolia species. The gardens
team at Wentworth has undertaken an ambitious programme of reorganising
these collections, propagating and transplanting many of the specimens.
wall south of the gardens, constructed in the early 18th century,
was one of the earliest features of its type in the country. Now
in a very poor condition, it was substantially restored using
sandstone from the estate. A new entrance to the gardens was also
provided to manage the new influx of visitors passing through
the new garden to the east of the house, and a new dry-stone bridge
was constructed across the ha-ha, also with site-won sandstone.
Its location was carefully chosen to provide an inviting point
of arrival into the gardens, and to reveal new views of the house
oaks (descended from original Quercus petraea) along the restored
South Avenue (Photo: IJM Photography)
Park is still very much a working estate, with four farmers tenanting
land within the grade I-registered park. Two of the farmers have
entered into Higher Level Stewardship Schemes this year, reverting
arable land to pasture, and herds of deer will be reintroduced.
More than 26 hectares were planted with new trees, restoring the
two major historic woodlands on the estate, which were primarily
lost in the second half of the 20th century. A principal challenge
in restoring the woodlands was the improvement of ground conditions
where these had been damaged by opencast mining; 2,535 tonnes
of treated composted sewage sludge (TCSS) was employed to help
restore the quality of the soil.
Perhaps one of the most ambitious
tasks undertaken was to reinstate the early 18th century South
Avenue by transplanting more than 50 semi-mature oak trees from
elsewhere in the parkland, supplemented by 57 new trees. A large
tree spade was employed to lift and move the transplanted trees,
which will be carefully monitored to provide them with the best
possible chance of success.
Prior to the
first phase of restoration, the only car park on the site was
located immediately in front of the Baroque wing of Wentworth
Castle. It intruded upon views between the house and parkland,
and was not large enough to accommodate the current, let alone
future requirements. A key restoration priority was to reinstate
this area to parkland, and relocate the car park to a less sensitive
location where greater capacity could be accommodated. An early
proposal was for car parking to be located in the historic walled
garden. However, this location was ultimately felt to be too sensitive,
and represented too great a resource for future restoration work
to be used in this way.
west along the central walk of the southern part of the restored
'Union Jack' Garden, including a semi-mature sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), planted to mirror the surviving 18th century
tree (Photo: IJM Photography)
car parks for the college and visitors were subsequently developed
away from key views, following extensive consultation with the
local planning authority and English Heritage. The new college
car park was sited to take advantage of a natural dip in a field
to the north of the castle and gardens, providing direct access
to college buildings and space for approximately 150 cars. It
will be further screened by a holly hedge and the restoration
of a cruciform avenue of trees.
A relatively poor, early 20th-century
wood was identified as the preferred location for the visitor
car park. The choice of this site involved particularly detailed
consultation, given the requirement for tree felling, issues of
parking under trees, and the provision of access. A lack of visibility
on the road to the north of the estate meant that it was not possible
to create a new junction here, and the only other option was via
the Strafford Gate. This option provided the safest solution,
although at a cost, as described above.
Removal of the former
car park was completed in May 2007. It overlay the site of the
early 18th-century octagon-shaped pool and fountain, so its removal
was covered by an archaeological watching brief and followed by
an investigative archaeological excavation to attempt to locate
any remains of the pool.
As of May
2007, much of the grounds has been opened to the public for the
first time, and the future of this unique resource as a complete
entity is largely assured. Phase II of the restoration project
is due to start in 2008, with the first urgent priority being to
restore the magnificent conservatory, which is only standing at
all thanks to an emergency temporary scaffold. Funding is
still being raised for this equally important second phase.
article is reproduced from The Building Conservation Directory, 2007
DIAZ PETERSEN is a senior consultant with HTLA (Hilary
Taylor Landscape Associates Ltd) and has been with the practice
for over four years. She has contributed to conservation
management plans and landscape restoration projects at a
wide range of historic parks and gardens.
TAYLOR is founder and co-director of HTLA. An historian,
writer and plantswoman, she has outstanding knowledge of
designed landscapes and over twenty years' experience in
the field. Hilary is an advisor on the Heritage Lottery
Fund's Expert Panel.
ELLIOTT BA (Hons), DipArch, MA(Conservation), RIBA ,
ARIAS is associate and technical manager with Purcell Miller
Tritton and the resident site architect and site co-ordinator
at Wentworth. He has practised as a chartered architect
for 24 years and since gaining an MA in the Conservation
of Historic Buildings at Kings Manor, York in 2002 has specialised
in historic buildings work.
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