Stowe Landscape Garden, Buckinghamshire
Stowe is a key component of the local landscape and a huge tourist attraction. We've been working with 'at risk' structures on this site for the entirety of the 20-year history of the Heritage at Risk Register. Stowe illustrates long-term partnership with other heritage bodies, in this case principally the National Trust (owners) and the National Lottery Heritage Fund (key funders).
Where: Stowe, Buckinghamshire
Years on register: Various – some 1998–2005, some 1998–still current; some added and removed between 1998 and 2018
Extensive grounds shaped by distinguished designers
The site consists of extensive pleasure grounds, park and woodland. The 400-room mansion is a Grade I listed building and lies near the centre of the site, close to the west boundary of the pleasure grounds. Although the house is dominant in the landscape, not all the pleasure grounds are directly visually linked to it.
The pleasure grounds spread across approximately 100 hectares and consist of several informal compartments ranged around the house. Each compartment contains and links a variety of 18th-century garden buildings and structures in many styles. Many of these are of great architectural importance and influence and were designed by distinguished architects.
In the detail of the buildings there is a lot of iconography relating to the political views of Lord Cobham and Earl Temple. Stowe Golf Club's nine-hole course is sited in Home Park and on the South Lawn and there are several other sports facilities sited in the pleasure grounds. A variety of school buildings built since 1923 lie to the west of the mansion.
The pleasure grounds are surrounded by the parks, now farmland. The park is bounded to the north by the major woodland, Stowe Woods, laid out with a network of formal rides, some of which may date from the early 17th century. The park contains its own group of eighteen 18th-century ornamental buildings, some of which continue the iconographic themes.
How we made a difference
In 1998 there were nine structures within the bounds of the Stowe Estate which were on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk register, including the 400-room mansion that is Stowe House. In the intervening years, six of these have been removed.
In most cases Historic England staff were involved, whether through providing advice and grants or because of partnership working with the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Most notably, Historic England staff acted as expert monitors to a succession of major Heritage Lottery Fund grants. Some of these addressed the wider landscape of the estate and resulted in the removal of the Wolfe Obelisk from the Heritage at Risk Register. Some of the grants funded repairs to the house.
Four garden buildings remain on the 2018 Heritage at Risk Register, three of which were added in 1998 – the East Boycott Pavilion, the Palladian Bridge and the Queens Temple. The fourth is the Temple of Friendship. We continue to have a good working relationship with the National Trust who own them and will be working with the National Trust in the next few years to see all four removed from the register.
The gardens and parkland at Stowe have been undergoing a continuous programme of restoration and conservation by the National Trust since 1989. Working collaboratively with partners such as Historic England has supported the National Trust significantly by reducing the backlog of at risk buildings particularly. The latest restoration project on The Temple of Friendship is fundamental for the future, removing the building from the at risk register and allowing the stories of Stowe to come alive again for members of the public to access.