Blenheim Palace “under wraps”

Conservation, News, Uncategorized

Blenheim Palace has embarked on a major £350,000 restoration project on its historic North Steps entrance. The steps, which are an integral part of the Oxfordshire baroque Palace, have been welcoming millions of visitors for almost three centuries.

Recent survey work showed the stone steps are slowly spreading apart and moving downhill away from the main structure. Exploratory excavations revealed they were originally constructed on top of a mix of compacted stone rubble, earth and mortared brickwork. Over the centuries lime mortar between the bricks has been eroded and the infill base settled, this combined with gravity has resulted in the steps moving away from the Palace.

A team of specialist stonemasons will painstakingly remove the existing step and Portland flagstones, before reinstating the underlying substrate. Each step and flagstone will then be thoroughly inspected to see it if requires and repairs and, if necessary, replacement.

While work is taking place the area has been wrapped in a 56 metre long and seven metre high banner featuring a photographic representation of the North Steps. Special viewing windows and platforms have also been created so the public can see the restoration work taking place.

 The restoration project began in December, 2016 and is anticipated to be completed by mid-May, 2017. While work is taking place the steps will be out of action to visitors, however special viewing windows and platforms have been created so the public can see the restoration work taking place.

Roger File, Property Director said: “We’d like to apologise to our visitors for any inconvenience this restoration project will cause, however it is crucial we undertake this type of conservation work to help preserve and protect Blenheim Palace for future generations to enjoy and experience”

.“The work will also provide a fascinating opportunity to gain an insight in to how the original builders created part of this extraordinary structure,” He added.

In 2011 Blenheim Palace completed similar restoration work on the South Front Steps which were also moving away from the Palace. The restoration proved incredibly successful and has offered a template for the current restoration project.

Built in the early 18th century as a monument to celebrate Britain’s victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession, the Palace is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. It was officially designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

New Tour for 2017 at Blenheim Palace

Arts, Conservation, Events, News, Opportunities, Uncategorized, World Heritage Sites

Discover the real ‘Behind the Scenes’ at Blenheim Palace, in a fascinating limited edition new tour for 2017. ‘Restoration & Conservation’ will be the theme of the guided tours which will begin in the New Year as part of the extended opening season experience offered to visitors at the Oxford World Heritage Site.

The ‘Restoration & Conservation’ tour will be exclusively available from 9 January – 8 February 2017, running twice per day excluding Sundays. The new tours will tie in to the annual deep clean of Blenheim Palace which will now be on full to visitors during this period. The tour will give an in-depth look into what is being done in each of the State Rooms.

The new tours will look at two very important aspects of running a 300 year old Palace, including restoring a piece of art, building or tapestry to its original condition, as well as the preservation and repair of the historical and cultural site and its artefacts. The tour will also examine the theme of renovation, exploring how Blenheim Palace must also modernise and remain as a comfortable family home and appealing to visitors.

From the necessary continuing restoration of the ‘Capability’ Brown Cascades and Bladon dams, work which will total approximately £2m when completed to keeping the Palace safe for its inhabitants and visitors, the tour will look at which projects are undertaken, when and why.

The fascinating tour will also look at the most impactful projects including The Eyes in 1928. Painted for the 2nd wife of the 9th Duke, Gladys Deacon, these have a great visual impact on visitors. Exposure to the elements over 80 years had caused the painting and plaster work to degrade to a point where they were barely visible. 

From clocks to paintings each piece of work often requires specialist and niche attention, with specialists sought from all over the world to complete the painstaking tasks of restoring priceless pieces of history.

The job of cleaning the China collection used to fall to the 10th Duchess and her unfortunate administrator, Archie Illingworth – he used to dread the call, ‘Mr Illingworth, today we are going to clean the China!’  The Duchess would wash the China and it was Archie’s responsibility to dry it.

 One of the recent renovations is the Bouchain Tapestry, the priceless 18th century tapestry depicting one of Britain’s most important military victories is 25ft wide and almost 15 feet high. The giant wall hanging is made of wool and silk and was woven in the Brussels workshop of the Flemish weaver, Judocus de Vos.

Part of a set of 10, the tapestries are the most accurate and detailed contemporary records that exist of the campaign, not least because the 1st Duke, John Churchill, provided accurate battle plans and portraits of the principal characters. After being painstakingly removed from the walls of the Palace’s Second State Room, the tapestry was carefully rolled up before being transported back to the city it was originally created in for renovation. It took a year to completely renovate!

From keeping the rain out, Blenheim Palace has over 7 acres of roof, to protecting ceremonial robes, the Marlborough;s Coronation Robes were beginning to deteriorate in the sunlight, there is must to learn and lots of exciting facts to discover.

What: New Restoration & Conservation Tour at Blenheim Palace

When: From 6 January – 28 February 2017, running twice per day excluding Sundays

Why Visit: Discover the intricate processes of historical restoration and modern conservation whilst maintaining the heritage of the Oxfordshire World Heritage Site.

Price: Palace, Park & Garden ticket required, Adult £24.90, Concession* £19.90, Child £13.90

Website: blenheimpalace.com