Works have started on a £2.3 million project at Walmer Castle in Deal, which will rejuvenate parts of the castle’s historic gardens and reveal some of the site’s hidden stories.
English Heritage’s Re-Discovering Walmer’s Pleasure Grounds project has been made possible thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £1.35m.
The project will focus on reviving and reuniting the areas of the gardens known as the Glen and the Paddock. We started works mid May with our team creating a new children’s play trail and Woodland Walk; along with improving visitor facilities by adding a new Glasshouse café, learning space, disabled toilets and disabled access routes.
In the Glen, paths which existed during William Pitt the Younger’s time as Lord Warden will be reinstated, along with planting to evoke the atmosphere described by Lady Hester Stanhope, Pitt’s niece. Meanwhile the Paddock and surrounding woodland will be re-presented to more closely resemble their historic layout and conserve the chalk downland meadow.
Neil McCollum, English Heritage’s Head of Historic Properties for Kent, said: “Walmer Castle & Gardens is one of the jewels in our crown; it’s an integral part of the story of the castle and we know it’s got a special place in the hearts of local people. The Pleasure Grounds represent a particularly vibrant period of the Castle’s history, but parts have become inaccessible to the public with risk of becoming permanently lost. Now, thanks to funding from the National Lottery, we are delighted to have started work on this exciting project and look forward to unveiling the results and opening up these new areas to visitors in due course.”
English Heritage will also be involving the local community with the project and is developing a number of volunteering opportunities in the garden, all of which will be designed to engage a diverse range of local community groups. These will include young people, school groups, hard to reach families, unaccompanied refugees and asylum seekers and people with disabilities and mental health difficulties.
The works, are due to be completed in 2019 with the castle and its existing gardens to remain open throughout the project.
Martin Watts, Southern Construction Director of Walker Construction comments: "We're very proud to be a part of this project. We're wholeheartedly committed to heritage projects, promoting and celebrating our local historic buildings and structures. We look forward to improving facilities for visitors and ensuring Walmer Castle remains a fantastic Kentish attraction.”
L-R: From Walker Construction: Lee Muir (Project Manager), Phil Maris (Site Manager), Martin Watts (Southern Construction Director); and from English Heritage: Neil McCollum (Head of Historic Properties Kent) Kate Olpin (Site Manager, Walmer Castle), Hannah West (Community Engagement Officer) and Mark Brent (Head Gardener, Walmer Castle).
The pleasure grounds around Walmer Castle were begun around 1802, developed from a piece of windswept coastal farmland by William Pitt the Younger, with the help of his niece, Lady Hester Stanhope, in 1805-6. The grounds were unfinished when Pitt died in 1806, but completed in the following 20 years by Lord Liverpool, and have been evolving under many influences ever since. The gardens are Grade II listed on Historic England’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England.
On the picturesque Kent coastline, Walmer Castle was built as an artillery fort in 1539-40 during the reign of Henry VIII. In the early 18th century, the castle was adopted as the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports which brought a succession of occupants whose lives were at the heart of the British establishment. These include famous historical figures; Pitt of course but also the Duke of Wellington, Herbert Henry Asquith and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
Today, the Tudor fortress sits jewel-like among eight acres of magnificent gardens and grounds.
Michelle Roffe, Head of HLF South East, said: “We are delighted to support this project to restore these wonderful Grade II listed gardens at Walmer Castle. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, it will mean that more people will be able to get involved with and learn about the exciting heritage right on their doorstep.”