World Heritage UK’s latest workshop, ‘Commercial Best Practice in World Heritage’ took place last week in the magnificent setting of the Kew Gardens UNESCO World Heritage Site. Beating the inclement weather the week before, the participants enjoyed a bright couple of days (with the occasional shower) exploring some of the treasures this remarkable place holds. Travelling on the explorer bus through budding narcissi and spring crocus, the party of thirty delegates were transported to The Pagoda, Queen Charlotte’s Cottage and the Temperate House so see behind-the-scenes restoration work and special privilege access to areas not open to the public. Climbing three hundred steps to the top of the pagoda to meet the restoration experts and the first of the ornamental dragons being mounted there was a memorable experience. Particularly impressive was the amount of research that has taken place in order to match the original design of the architect William Chambers back in 1761, including paint analysis to achieve an accurate representation of the eighteenth century colour scheme. The group were told that this monument is the most important garden ornament in the world – quite fitting to be found in a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On to Queen Charlotte’s Cottage (like The Pagoda, managed by Historic Royal Palaces) this hidden gem is an early example of a cottage orné, a rustic thatched cottage built as a country retreat, not as a residence, and used for taking tea during walks in the gardens. A favourite place of King George III, it houses many Hogarth prints and once had a menagerie which included the first kangaroos from the colonies. Then the magnificent Temperate House which is undergoing major restoration and the works are now nearing completion with just a few weeks to go. This is a major investment into World Heritage, costing £41m and the newly painted (four coats) and glazed building is already receiving some of the 10,000 plants of 1500 species while the finishing touches to the structure are being undertaken. After a warm welcome speech from the Director at Kew Gardens, Richard Deverell, the workshop participants received expert wisdom in stimulating presentations from two of Kew’s senior staff, setting the scene for them getting engaged in three workshop groups which enabled a willing exchange of knowledge and experience between those taking part. The notes from the plenary feedback session are currently being distilled and will be available shortly. If this was not enough to fill the one and a half days spent together, everyone enjoyed the evening dinner at the nearby London Museum of Water and Steam, where the heritage engines were fired up in a magnificent demonstration of 19th century mechanical engineering. Thanks go to John Porter for setting up this arrangement. Thanks are also due to the sponsors of the event, Historic England and Lichfields, without whom this workshop would not have been realised. Cheers!
Image coming soon