The Marble Hill Society

"Marble Hill Revived" investment project news

Project update February 2017, English Heritage planning application and Have Your Say notice received April 2017
 
Quick link: have your say on the planning application here.

By clicking on this link you will also gain access to the planning application itself and a whole series of reports on the park and the house.  These include
*  a 68 page report from Skellon Studios on the Marble Hill Interpretation Scheme Design
*  a report from The Floyd Consultancy on damp issues (Jan 2013)
*  the "Marble Hill Parks for People Planning Statement by Litchfields (planning & development consultants)
*  a comprehensive report from Agnus Alexander and the team at Historic England covering the story of Marble Hill and the results of their recent research on the landscape
*  formal comments from Historic England on the plans (from Michael Dunn, Principal Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas)

The Story So Far

Taken from Marble Hill Society newsletter



Background

In 2015 EH unveiled exciting and ambitious plans for a major project at Marble Hill which could see investment of £6mn by the Spring of 2018 to improve the House and the Park. Following a public meeting at the House on 16 July 2015 (hosted by Alex Sydney) a Stage 1 funding bid was submitted to the HLF “Parks for People” in September: this was unsuccessful (due to a large number of bids) but was re-submitted in February 2016. In July a grant of £275,000 was awarded to progress planning and development work on the project. By October 2016 Ndai Halisch had been appointed Project Manager and Kate Pitt as Audience Development Manager. EH hoped to submit a Stage 2 bid for further funding to the HLF in February 2017.



Project

The project was intended to address the serious damp, electrical and building repairs in the House; improve conservation standards (heating, humidity control systems, displays etc.) visitor flow and presentation; offer 5 days a week opening for free-flow (with room stewards and volunteers); provide a variety of 21C visitor activities, talks, exhibitions and educational events for all ages; review the location/effectiveness of the shop; create a Visitor Centre; review/improve the catering offer/role of the cafe; improve the sports facilities and the toilet provision; and reinstate the historic core of the landscape, including restoration of the Grotto and other 18C features.



Steering group

A steering group of local stakeholders was set up to work with EH on the Project, including representatives of the Marble Hill Society, Orleans Gallery, the Marble Hill Cricket Club, the Model Market Garden, Marble Hill Playcentres, Riverside Dogs and sports teams using the park.



Stage 1: consultation, engagement and development of the plans

Following various meetings and discussions with local groups led by Kate Pitt; a public “Drop In” session (19.11.2016) in a marquee near the Stables Cafe, with a small exhibition and curators and landscape historians on hand to answer questions; a presentation to members of the MH Society (27.11.16); and meetings with the MHS Guides – more detailed plans were developed to support the Stage 2 bid. These were unveiled in early 2017 to meetings of the users of the park (24.1.17); the public (25.1.17); the Steering Group (27.1.17) and the MHS guides (6.2.17).
 
Note: Actions included leaflet drops in the local area; promotion of these events in the local press, via the Council website and through community groups; an open invitation to contact Kate Pitt direct to discuss the plans; a dedicated website link (www.english-heritage.org.uk/marblehillrevived); the option to submit views/comments online or via the “Be Part of the Story” suggestion cards; and 5 triangular “project information boards” in the park – EH has tried to raise awareness and engage with interested parties and the general public; listen to views, aspirations and concerns; and incorporate these into the planning process.



Key Features of the 2017 Plans

Restoration of the lost Georgian Pleasure Garden of Henrietta Howard (from the House to the River); extended cafe & toilets, with shop, in the Stables; expanded and themed, dog-free children’s play area; enhanced sports facilities and refurbished changing rooms; refurbishment/reinterpretation of the House and free entry 5 days a week; programme of events and “interpretation” of the site to help tell Henrietta’s story.



Henrietta’s Pleasure Garden

Based on the recently discovered 1752 plan of the park which clearly defines a rectangle of land stretching from the carriage drive on the north of the House down to the river and includes a wealth of detail of the walks, trees, planting and usage of the area known as “The Pleasure Ground”. This is a unique and historically important aspect of the site showing the latest thinking in classical villa gardens of the 18C. Though the basic structure survives today, paths no longer penetrate the “Wilderness Quarters” (which are fenced off); the “Mount” (a man-made hill from which to admire the estate and the river) is gone; and some evidence of a series of earth terraces is all that remains of the lawn which originally descended through a stepped gradient (a feature characteristic of the work of the King’s landscape gardener, Charles Bridgeman who collaborated with Pope on the gardens).


Pleasuregrounds

Reinstating the 1752 plan as faithfully as possible is at the core of the “Marble Hill Revived” investment project. It is proposed that the area be enclosed by “estate style” pin metal railings with a number of access gates, and be dog-free. Winding walks and flower beds will be recreated in the part nearer the House (together with HH’s “Ninepin Alley”); the ice house and the grotto retained and improved; an oval circus/performance space created between two semi-circular walks of shrubs; and an elongated horseshoe of lawn will be flanked by ordered groves and trees to enhance the view of the House from the river. The best of the existing trees etc. will be retained but extensive new planting will promote a more diverse flora and fauna in keeping with the 18C history. The railings will leave clear a strip of land at the south of the area (before the park railings) so that dog-walkers can still circumnavigate the park without going out onto the tow path.

 

Stables Cafe & Shop

The main Stables block (built 1825-27) is retained, but the raised beds will be removed and the rear and sides developed to create a 60 seater cafe (run by EH) with an open courtyard with views down to the river; an EH shop; a kiosk for take-away drinks etc.; an office and service yard; and public toilets. The two staff flats on the first floor of the existing block will be retained.
 
Stables cafe and shop



Children’s Play Area

The existing, dog-free grassed area for children (near the cafe) will be extended and improved by the addition of some play equipment (age up to 5) in keeping with the natural feel of the park which will promote social interaction.



Sports facilities and changing rooms enhancement

This EH site is also unique in having both an historic house and gardens, but also a public park with sporting facilities including, cricket, football and rugby, dog walkers and exercise groups. Extensive tests and surveys of the soils, grass cover, flooding and drainage, and trees/shrubs of the site and the pitches indicates that the conditions are generally good and so no dramatic changes are needed. However patches of heavy wear, some undulation of the pitches, areas of poor grass cover or mixed clover etc., areas of inadequate drainage (leading to pitches not being playable), and some shading caused by overhanging tree canopies can all be improved. A programme of measurers to address these issues is proposed, including sand grooves, over-seeding to improve the sward, levelling and rolling, and regular maintenance. To re-seed a pitch and allow it to properly grow would take a year, so a rolling programme is suggested. In addition, the tennis courts would be re-surfaced; and the cricket nets and pitch improved.




The changing rooms (male only at present) are generally felt to be very inadequate and totally unacceptable: providing 21C facilities for men, women and disabled players is considered a priority and EH’s limited proposals in this regard are not adequate. The sports groups are keen to work with EH to see if dedicated sports funding could be secured for this purpose. Similarly, the sports users were unanimous in asking for a Pavilion of some kind for post-match teas, drinks and socialising. This was not part of EH’s plans and there is no funding in the project budget for it, but again the teams are very keen to work with EH to see if other sources of funding could be accessed for these improvements.
 


The House

Refurbishment of the fabric (plaster, windows, damp, guttering, electrics etc.) will be carried out. The house will be better furnished and some new wall coverings and hangings are planned. In re-creating Henrietta’s story, there will be a focus on themes like her letter writing, tea drinking, hearing problems, friends and entertaining. Information in the main rooms will be “light-touch” re-creating this unique family home rather than a museum, with information on 6 key items. More extensive and detailed information will be available from the room “explainers”, in room-specific leaflets, in a new audio-visual film of Henrietta, her life & times, and in the new EH book for visitors. There will also be more family and child-friendly features. Entry to the house will be free, with the option of free-flow or guided tours.

On the ground floor, the current shop area will be a new introductory space showing Henrietta’s back story, George II, court life, and the building of Marble Hill. The Stone staircase area will be used to tell about the work and lives of the house servants; and in the main Entrance Hall visitors will learn about trade, imports and the growing economic wealth of 18C England. The Tetrastyle Hall will be furnished as the entertainment space it was used for, and will feature information about the cultural landscape of Henrietta and her Twickenham set. In the Breakfast Parlour, the story of tea drinking, china, and Henrietta’s private conversations with friends like Lady Betty Germain will feature. On the other side of the house, the Dining Room will be set for dinner and tell how productive the Marble Hill estate was and how the produce was used; and the disused Paper Room will be transformed by an audio-visual presentation on Henrietta’s life and times and the wider 18C world as it impacted Georgian life (including the arts, commerce, politics etc.).

On the first floor (the piano nobile suite of rooms), the magnificent Great Hall will be furnished as the formal social space it was used for, with an 18C musical sound-scape, and information on the arts, needlework, fabrics, Palladian influences and Henrietta’s passions like chinoiserie. In the Dressing Room, the information will focus on Henrietta’s circle while the rear Damask Room will tell the story of Henrietta’s very happy second marriage to George Berkeley MP and explore the role of women in the 18C (was Henrietta typical of her time or not?). On the other side of the Great Room, Lady Suffolk’s Bedchamber will be used to explain how her days were spent, her health problems, her extensive letter writing and the use of the room for private visitors; while Henrietta’s dressing room to the rear will be transformed into the bedroom of her granddaughter Henrietta Hotham who was her close companion in her later years, with a new tester bed and hangings and appropriate furnishings and information about Little Henrietta’s life at Marble Hill.

The paintings: Marble Hill House has a very fine collection of 18C British paintings – these will be re-arranged to better support this story and curator, Dr Esme Whittaker, is trying to arrange the loan to Marble Hill of the marriage portraits of Henrietta and George Berkeley from Audley End.

Improving disabled access in the House is a key requirement and after much exploration of options and costs it is proposed to install a small, Platform Lift in the control room (to the left of the main entrance) going up to the first floor. This will not affect the external look of the House and it will be clad and painted to reduce its visual impact inside. It will not touch the walls, so all features are retained. The gaps between the lift and the walls will be in-filled with removable material and the lift will be structurally fixed to the masonry wall as per the plans of the Structural Engineer. Historic Door Fire Upgrading will also be carried out. In an emergency, a person with limited mobility could be carried from the first floor to the ground floor via the grand staircase.

Promoting commercial use of the house (e.g. weddings etc.) requires better options for catering, so permanent fixing points for a marquee are proposed – located to the left of the house, in an outside area which will be screened by trees and shrubs.
 
Note: the second floor of the house is not included in the Big Investment Project. However free flow visitors will be able to access the splendid Long Gallery (also called the Ball-room, which was used for walking, conversation and dancing in Henrietta’s time). As a panelled interior hung with paintings, this could have been the second finest room in the house, though not Palladian in concept. A room explainer and room-specific information cards will provide further information for visitors. The remaining rooms on this floor will be open for guided tours only. There are no plans to open the Garret storey of the house (used as servants’ quarters).


Interpretation at Marble Hill: in addition to the improved interpretation facilities inside the house, there will be better signage and interpretation panels throughout the park to guide visitors and show how the landscape would have looked and been used in Henrietta’s time. Features will be aimed at both adults and children (e.g. bee hives; carts etc.). There will also be a new, improved EH visitor book on Marble Hill.


Timetable

The Stage 2 “Parks for People” HLF bid will be submitted in February 2017, with a decision expected by the end of June. At the same time, a planning application will be submitted to the local Council. While these applications are under determination, the Project Team will continue detailed work on the plans. If and when the Stage 2 grant is approved, it is planned to close the House at the end of August for one year, with a grand opening in September 2018.


Other Work outside the project

The Sweet Walk, a serpentine avenue of trees lined with sweet-smelling, ornamental flowers was created for Henrietta by keen botanist the 3rd Earl of Bute to screen off Montpelier Row (where he was living) from Marble Hill. Though not included in the Big Investment project, EH hopes to be able to recreate this Walk separately.

The Model Market Garden, in the north-east part of the Park, is also not included in the project, but again EH wants to see this continue.


Key project staff

Project Manager Ndai Halisch English Heritage
Audience Development Manager Kate Pitt English Heritage
Head of Gardens & Landscapes John Watkins English Heritage
Landscape Adviser Emily Parker English Heritage
Interpretation Manager Cresida Diezfinch English Heritage
Senior Curator, London & East Laura Houliston English Heritage
Marble Hill Curator Dr Esme Whittaker English Heritage
Property Curator, London Dr Agnieszka Sadrau English Heritage
Education Marketing Manager Chantelle Joysury English Heritage
Archaeological Adviser Magnus Alexander Historic England
Landscape Architects Neil Davidson J&L Gibbons
Conservation Architects   Van Heyringham & Havard Architects and
Acanthus Clews Architects


Denise Carr
Marble Hill Society
8 February 2017

 


Have Your Say

Text of English Heritage’s invitation to “Have Your Say” regarding the planning application for physical changes to Marble Hill
Application ref 17/1094/FUL submitted 20th March 2017 for a decision by 19th May 2017

 
Marble Hill House is the last of the great Thames-side Palladian mansions. It tells the tale of its remarkable creator, Henrietta Howard, who built Marble Hill House in the 1720s as a retreat from court life and as a place to entertain her dazzling circle of friends.

Until about 150 years ago, Marble Hill’s unique gardens were just as impressive as the house itself. Now English Heritage is working with the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore elements of the lost gardens of Henrietta’s lifetime, and to improve facilities throughout the park and house.

Discover more about our plans for Marble Hill, and how you can have a say, below.

As a charity, English Heritage provides free access to Marble Hill Park, at a cost in 2016/17 of £285,000. We are now aiming to make Marble Hill one of the best parks in London, and hope that local people will want to use the park and its facilities even more than they do now. The income generated by a new café will make the running of the park more financially sustainable, and ensure that we can spend significantly more money on its annual maintenance.

As part of this process, we’ve recently submitted a Round 2 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. If successful, this will result in over £4 million of HLF funding being invested in Marble Hill.

Key elements of our plans include:
  • conserving the exterior of Marble Hill House and retelling its fascinating stories inside
  • removing the admission charge to the house, and opening it to the public five days a week for seven months of the year
  • restoring elements of the gardens – particularly the former pleasure grounds between the house and river, and the Sweet Walk on the boundary with Richmond Road
  • creating an amazing new café with a wide-ranging and regularly changing menu, and a visitor hub in the Coach House (including a modern extension in the courtyard behind it)
  • installing a new themed children’s play area
  • improving habitats across the park
  • creating an additional 17.5 full-time equivalent jobs
  • making significant improvements to the sports pitches and creating refurbished, single-sex changing facilities for the first time at Marble Hill
  • expanding our programme of public events to tell Marble Hill’s story to as many people as possible.
 
Following consultation between November 2016 and January 2017, when we invited local residents to express their views about the project, we have submitted a planning application to the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames requesting approval for the physical changes we want to make. You can access this application in two ways: You can submit your views on our proposals until 18 April, either online or by post to: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Development Management, 2nd Floor Civic Centre, York Street, Twickenham, TW1 3BZ
 

How we've listened

During the consultation period for this project, two elements of the scheme were discussed which are no longer included in the project proposals or the planning application:
  • a fenced, dog-free area between the house and river
  • a wedding marquee area with permanent fixing points
Our consultation showed us that while local residents were broadly supportive of the proposals overall, a significant number were not convinced that these two elements were justified. As a result, English Heritage has decided not to include them in the scheme proposed in the planning application.

We plan to consult further on these two proposals before deciding whether or not to progress them any further.