The funding allows English Heritage to restore one of Britain’s finest landscape gardens to its original splendour. Wrest Park is one of the country’s largest ‘secret gardens’ in that for many decades it was part of an agricultural research centre, its treasures were overgrown and the garden largely unknown by the public. Throughout the 18th century the garden saw commissions by many eminent designers including Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, William Kent, Batty Langley and Thomas Archer.
The first phase of the restoration will be unveiled in June 2011 with the opening of reinstated Italian and Rose Gardens. HLF’s support will also provide better visitor facilities and improved exhibitions. The garden will develop more opportunities for volunteers, as well as running an apprenticeship scheme for eight novice gardeners.
English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley described the grant as a "vote of confidence" for his organisation, which was criticised after the £2.1m restoration of Kenilworth Castle last year. He added: "Wrest Park and its outstanding collection of historic garden buildings is one of the finest surviving eighteenth century landscapes in Britain. It is also one of our best kept secrets and few know of its magnificence. Our restoration will reverse years of neglect and bring this once famous and beautiful landscape back into the limelight."
The HLF has also given initial support for a £1.5m bid, including £15,000 development funding, towards the initial restoration phase of Croome Court, a Grade I listed 18th century mansion in Worcestershire owned by the National Trust.
As Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s first complete landscape, this is an important site which created a new trend in garden design across the UK. The project will provide greater opportunities for visitors to learn the fascinating stories of the house and grounds over two and a half centuries of history.
The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire has also been given initial support for a £1.5m HLF bid.