The conservatories were a much missed aspect of Walton Hall and Gardens estate but on 10 October 2019, the glasshouse restoration project was officially opened following its two million restoration.
The ceremony brought together the people who made this unique project a reality, from the influential Friends of Walton Hall estate to Tiffany Hunt, Chair of the National Lottery Heritage Fund in the North, design officers, labourers, councillors and MPs. Cllr Tony Higgins, in his comment to the Warrington Guardian, captures this shared vision perfectly:
“The rejuvenation of the Walton Estate conservatories is a real success story for Warrington, and a fantastic example of how effective partnership work can protect, preserve and ultimately, bring new life to our most treasured historic assets.”Cllr Tony Higgins
After three years of partnership working with Rosslee Construction, it’s fair to say that the conservatories are shining once again and ready to re-take their place as part of of a vibrant Walton Hall estate.
The conservatories now have a bright future as an educational hub and a place of accessible learning, with a sustainable partnership formed with Myerscough College and Walton Lea Partnership to deliver apprenticeships, qualifications and opportunities for social enterprise.
This collaboration will also lead to the development of other areas of the Walton Hall Estate, such as the historic formal gardens, conservatory planting and Zoo, all of which will further increase public participation and learning.
The project mission was to:
- Restore and revitalise the existing conservatory, glasshouses and shippon.
- Provide innovative teaching and training for young adults and people with disabilities, resulting in a range of pathways to increased wellbeing, work readiness, entrepreneurship and employment.
- Provide significantly enhanced opportunities for engagement with the estate’s heritage, as well as improvements to its ongoing management, conservation and recording.
- Strengthen and diversify the existing volunteer programme.
- Transform the estate’s value as a community resource, delivering increased public participation.
In September 1993, the conservatory range closed to the public and over the intervening 25 years, the buildings fell into disrepair. The buildings only remained standing thanks to temporary supporting beams and maintenance from the estate’s rangers and volunteers from The Friends of Walton Estate. The planning for the fantastic restoration project was years in development. However, thanks to The Heritage Lottery Fund, the restoration project got the cash injection it needed and, a team of heritage specialists were employed to design the restoration works.
The Glasshouse restoration
We’ve taken great care throughout the restoration process to preserve the site’s cultural heritage with everything sympathetic to the original building. Contractors Rosslee Construction have spent 17 long months on site restoring the premises to their former glories and have delivered a fantastic piece of heritage back to the community.
Our time-lapse video illustrates the scale of the works perfectly!
The restoration of the conservatories is entirely in keeping with the original and contains thousands of pieces of slender, elegant timber. During the renovation, each piece of timber was removed, tagged to mark its original location and assessed for rot. This original timber was then used internally with new timber utilised for the external beams.
Nearly all the original ironwork has been repaired, reused and repainted. The original ironwork was paint tested numerous times, and one of the most prominent colours was a beautiful powder blue, illustrated below.
The conservatory range’s brickwork was generally in excellent condition and over than 90% of the bricks on site today are original dating from 1899-1910. The walls were dismantled brick by brick, cleaned, assessed for damage and rebuilt using a similar lime mortar, ensuring everything was in keeping with the original build.
The main glasshouse is open during park opening hours and the Atrium will be accessible at all times. However, the wings will be closed during term time as students will be using these areas. There will be public access at weekends.
The Courtyard, Vinery and The Shippon yard will be open at weekends.