Piecing together the Tyntesfield orangery

The orangery at Tyntesfield, as found. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

When the National Trust took on Tyntesfield, the high-Victorian country house near Bristol, in 2002, the orangery there was in very poor condition due to long-term lack of maintenance, with shrubs growing through the roof and rain pouring in.

Work underway at the orangery. ©NTPL/John Millar

Last year saw the start of a three-year project to restore this listed building to its full late-Victorian glory. The aim of the project is not just to restore the orangery, but also to provide training oportunities in buildings conservation and stone masonry.

Stone mason finishing off a cornice. ©NTPL/John Millar

Extra funding was obtained from the Commercial Education Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund to allow students from City of Bath College and other groups to work on the orangery together with the expert stone masons of Nimbus Conservation.

The worn capital of one of the pilasters awaiting replacement. ©NTPL/John Millar

Over 6,000 visitors have also been able to see the ongoing work from a specially constructed viewing platform. In October 2011 the project was awarded an English Heritage Angels Award, a scheme founded by Andrew Lloyd Webber to celebrate the efforts of local people in rescuing their heritage.

A newly carved capital. ©NTPL/John Millar

Bookings are now being taken for workshops and tours in spring/summer 2012: contact Katie Laidlaw at katie.laidlaw@nationaltrust.org.uk.

15 Responses to “Piecing together the Tyntesfield orangery”

  1. Susan Walter Says:

    Simon and I have fond memories of housesitting at Tyntesfield in the early days of the Trust’s ownership. The gardener brought us a bunch of nerines from the bed along the side of the orangerie. It really was in a parlous condition, with delaminating stonework and general air of ruin.

  2. Barbara Says:

    Wonderful procees photos about a dear subject. Thank you.

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Susan, that is a nice touch of continuity, though: the nerines continuing to be harvested while the orangery falls apart.

    Barbara, thanks very much.

  4. style court Says:

    The shrubs coming through the roof gave it a rather Miss Havisham quality. But I love seeing the process photos, too — the restoration. How exciting that students and craftspeople in training can hone their skills contributing to the project.

  5. artandarchitecturemainly Says:

    From the outside photo of the orangery at Tyntesfield, it is easy to imagine it was once a beautiful building?

    So why did this building go to rack and ruin? Do people not use orangeries any longer, at least not for their original purpose?

  6. Andrew Says:

    I’m sure it makes sense to make the building weather-tight, but I like the old worn capitals!

    I appreciate the skill needed to make new ones, and the opportunity to train people in disappearing crafts, but surely restoration does not mean making it look like it is brand new?

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Courtney and Helen, yes it shows the difficulties faced by private owners in maintaining large estates. George Gibbs, 2nd Baron Wraxall lived alone at Tyntesfield and it was following his death in 2001 that the National Trust became involved.

    The aim was not just to save it from further dilapidation but also to preserve a Victorian country house and estate with ‘everything’ still in it. Despite the problems with the orangery, for instance, the walled kitchen gardens have remained in operation continuously since the time they were built (as Susan attest in her previous comment).

    Andrew, yes the worn captals are rather ‘wabi’, aren’t they? But they and other elements of the stonework were too far gone for it to be practical to keep them in place.

    It is always a complex assessment whether to ‘conserve’ or ‘restore’, and Tyntesfield’s character and atmosphere obviously depend greatly on its original Victorian objects, materials and surfaces.

    So the colleagues at Tyntesfield try to do as little as possible, but in some cases there are certain things they just have to do, for practical reasons (and also for public safety), but then they try to do them as sensitively as possible.

  8. graham daw Says:

    There is always a tension between the patina of time and staving off decay in architecture but here where the designer’s intentions are so clear and the original execution of them so incompetent-am I right thinking that?- I can see every reason to renew stonework.It is like re-setting the clock and from now on we can allow time to do its mellowing.

  9. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Indeed Graham, the fact that this orangery was originally intended as a fairly high-spec and grand example of its kind undoudtedly was a factor in deciding how to restore it.

  10. Andrew Says:

    Too far gone? What stone were they made from, to have worn out so completely after only 100 or so years!

    Perhaps I need to be a bit less sentimental about blocks of old stone.

  11. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Andrew, yes it may have been something to do with the roof failing that caused the stonework to deteriorate quicker, but I will try to find out what kind of stone it is.

  12. Mark D. Ruffner Says:

    Perhaps it’s limestone.

    I can see both sides of this debate; I just think it’s great that restoring a site can be a learning experience for a new generation.

  13. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks Mark. Yes the aim is for the estate to be a resource not just for visitors but also for those working or doing projects there.

  14. HRH The Duchess of State Says:

    What a beautiful building & restoration work dahhling…most importantly how wonderful the opportunity is being maximized by allowing students to learn techiniques that could be lost otherwise.

  15. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks HRH.

    Andrew, in answer to your question, the stone being used in the conservation work is Elm Park stone, which comes from the ‘Great Oolite’ beds of Bath stone in the Corsham area in Wiltshire. Although not from the same quarry as the original, petrographic analysis has shown it to be a good match (information from Katie Laidlaw – thank you Katie).

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