Lutyen’s Salutation in Sandwich Restored

Following a decade of neglect and after facing 17 separate attempts to either ruin the setting through development or simply demolish the house, the gardens of The Salutation in Sandwich have finally been opened to the public following extensive restoration.

The house, now the private home of Dominic Parker, was designed and built between 1911-12 by one of the most important English architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens. The Salutation was heavily influenced, though built on a smaller scale , by the architecture of Sir Christopher Wren.  The gardens were originally by Lutyens’ long-term collaborator Gertrude Jekyll and have been restored from a state of just “grass and weeds”.

This is an impressive restoration and has saved a nationally important house from the hands of short-sighted developers who only see land and not history.  Well-worth a visit if you are in the area.

Full story: ‘Stunning rebirth for beautiful stately home‘ [Kent News]

Kensington Palace: HRH’s scheme criticised

Prince Charles’ scheme to improve the setting of Kensington Palace has suffered a setback after his plans were described as looking ‘twee’ and like something that would appear in a “garden furniture catalogue”.

Originally a royal country retreat from the smells and noise of the Palace of Westminster, Kensington Palace is now part of central London and is somewhat blighted by the large hotel sited to the right as you approach from the busy Kensington High Street.

There is certainly room for improvement but perhaps a more interesting scheme could find favour by looking at enhancing the grand approaches rather than adding smaller details – certainly not enough long, tree-lined avenues are being planted these days.

Full story: ‘Prince Charles’ architecture charity backs ‘twee’ revamp of Kensington Palace’ [Daily Telegraph]

Floors Castle saved from fire

An alert member of staff (who should get a especially generous Christmas bonus this year) saved Floors Castle near Kelso from a potentially devastating fire.  The largest private house in Scotland was designed by William Adam in the 17th century and then ‘gothicised’ in the 19th century with the addition of many pinnacles.

Smoke from the fire in the private living area of the Duke of Roxburghe, who wasn’t in residence at the time, was spotted and the fire brigade called.  They made their way through the thick smoke and extinguished the blaze which had started in a freezer and had spread to the lath and plaster wall.  Luckily damage was limited to one room with minor smoke damage to a few surrounding ones.

Fire has been a constant danger to country houses with many over the years being reduced to a smoking ruin within hours.  Fire is the most devasting way to lose a house as usually the historic and beautiful contents are destroyed as well.  Thankfully in this case disaster was averted but it again shows the value of having staff in residence who are able to take swift action.

Full story: ‘Castle saved by ‘quick actions” [BBC News]

Scottish National Trust saga continues

The sad decline of the National Trust for Scotland continues with the news that they are to vacate their offices in the historic centre of Edinburgh for an anonymous office block.

The financial mis-management that has beset the Trust has led to the closure of some of it’s houses and drastic cuts within the rest of it’s operations so this may be seen as a logical step.  However, as the project to convert the buildings for their HQ was funded by the National Lottery, as much as 70% of the hoped-for selling price of £10m will have to be paid back.

Full story: ‘National Trust loses its own stately home – and faces bill for millions‘ [Scotsman]

National Trust loses its own stately home – and faces bill for millions

Hugh Johnson’s garden hit by thieves

The well-known wine critic Hugh Johnson has said there will be no more public open days to the garden at his home, Saling Hall in Essex, following thefts from the gardens.

After 40 years of providing pleasure for many who turned up to his 12-acre gardens, he has been forced to restrict access to approved groups only, after thieves used the open days as a way of planning their thefts.

Losses include a large statue which he now fears has become “£300 of  lead sheet” and bizarrely, packets of seeds from the potting shed.  A previous burglary in May had removed other fine objects including a 17th century astronomical sphere.

As always, someone with little care for others will ruin a good thing.  One can only be grateful it lasted as long as it did before some idiot took advantage as is all to common.

Full story: ‘Hugh Johnson keeps stately home garden closed after thieves steal sculptures‘ [Daily Telegraph]