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 Heritage Lottery 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.

See Stowe on the National Heritage List

A golden coloured stone pavilion building has classical columns reminiscent of Grecian and Roman temples. There are steps leading up to the portico area and the building is surrounded by overgrown green shrubs with trees behind the building.
The Grade I listed East Lake Pavilion at Stowe 1994 is in need of restoration and work to replace the slate roof and conservation repairs to stone masonry © National Trust Images

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 Heritage Lottery 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.

A golden coloured obelisk stands tall in the landscape amongst open parkland after being restored and gleams with a bright coat of limewash. Two large leafless trees show that it is winter.
Restored in 2000, the Grade I listed Wolfe’s Obelisk sits in the open parkland at Stowe. It’s bright after extensive stone masonry repairs and limewash © National Trust Images

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.

Fred Markland, Senior Building Surveyor for London and the South East, National Trust
A restored golden coloured building gleams brightly after restoration work. It has classical columns reminiscent of Grecian and Roman temples. There are steps leading up to the portico area.
The Grade I listed East Lake Pavilion at Stowe after restoration was completed in 2002 © National Trust Images

20 years of the Heritage at Risk Register

This year we are celebrating 20 years of the Heritage at Risk Register, Historic England’s tool for shining a light on the listed buildings and places in England that need the most help. Looking back over the last 20 years, huge progress has been made in saving our heritage and giving it new uses.

See more of our top 20 heritage rescues

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