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Maintenance and Repair of Historic Parks and Gardens

Maintenance and repair are needed to tackle the inevitable decay and deterioration of landscape design features and plantings that occurs because of age, neglect, wear and tear by users, pests and diseases, and increasingly climate change impacts.

This page covers:

What is maintenance?

We define maintenance as “routine work necessary to keep the fabric of a place in good order” Conservation Principles 2008.

The main objective of maintenance is to limit deterioration. Although it is often seen as mundane, maintenance forms a cornerstone of garden conservation. Maintenance is cost-effective, the time and money spent on routine care, regular surveys and minor repairs protect the value of the historic park and garden. Good maintenance also helps to ensure the health and safety of users and visitors.

A historic photo of the garden team at Audley End
A historic photo of the garden team at Audley End © Historic England Archive

What is repair?

We define repair as “work beyond the scope of maintenance, to remedy defects caused by decay, damage or use, including minor adaptation to achieve a sustainable outcome, but not involving alteration or restoration” Conservation Principles 2008.

Repair is normally carried out to sustain the significance of historic parks and gardens. Equally important in most cases is keeping the designed landscape in use, which is the best way to safeguard its future.

Find out more about principles of repair.

What is restoration?

Our Conservation Principles 2008 defines restoration as returning a historic park and garden to “a known earlier state, on the basis of compelling evidence, without conjecture”. The criteria include:

  • Weighing up the effect of change restoration work would bring to the heritage values of the historic park and garden
  • Compelling evidence for the restoration work
  • The proposed work respects previous forms of the historic park and garden
  • The maintenance implications of the proposed restoration are considered to be sustainable

The distinction between restoration and repair can sometimes become blurred when design details and or decorative elements that are important to the character and appearance of the designed landscape become eroded or damaged.

Often a programme of repair provides an opportunity for the reinstatement of missing elements, provided:

  • Sufficient evidence exists for an accurate replacement
  • No loss of historic fabric occurs
  • The necessary consents are obtained in advance

In some circumstances, restoration may provide conservation benefits that cannot be achieved through repair alone.

Historic landscape design plan of Heveningham Hall, Suffolk
Historic landscape design plan of Heveningham Hall, Suffolk © Historic England Archive

Learn more

The Management and Maintenance of Historic Parks, Gardens and Landscapes  (Edited by John Watkins and Tom Wright, Published 2007) is a reference manual written for professionals, land agents, designers, gardeners, managers, students and owners. The book is divided into four sections:

  • Understanding and planning the historic landscape and garden – Historic perspective, conservation management plan process, managing historic parks and gardens, the legal framework
  • The living garden landscape - Maintenance and management practice of trees, shrubs, perennials and other plants, and garden features like rock gardens, parterres and more; nature conservation, weed, pests and disease control and machinery.
  • Case studies - Brodsworth Hall, Chatsworth, Down House, Great Dixter, Hampton Court, Levens Hall, Sheffield Botanic Garden, Sheffield Park Garden, Squerryes Court and Stonehenge.
  • Appendices - There are tables on the dates of introduction for trees, conifers, rhododendrons, shrubs, herbaceous plants, fruit and vegetables. There are other appendices on glasshouse displays, hedge maintenance, pests and diseases, and so on.

Front cover image of The Mangement and Maintenance of Historic Parks Gardens and Landscapes - The English Heritage Handbook. Edited by John Watkins and Tom Wright
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