Blenheim Palace
Restoration

Restoration

The magnificent Palace (now over 300 years old) is in constant need of attention, as is the extensive collection within its walls. In buying a ticket to Blenheim Palace,  you make a vital contribution to our ongoing

restoration, conservation and maintenance programmes which are necessary to ensure that the Palace and it's surrounding Estate are preserved for future generations.

Restoration

The magnificent Palace (now over 300 years old) is in constant need of attention, as is the extensive collection within its walls. In buying a ticket to Blenheim Palace,  you make a vital contribution to our ongoing

restoration, conservation and maintenance programmes which are necessary to ensure that the Palace and it's surrounding Estate are preserved for future generations.

Be part of our legacy

As a registered charity your admission fee makes a big contribution to the amount of restoration and conservation we can achieve every year. Click the button below to find out more about the Blenheim Palace Heritage Foundation Charity and Gift Aid.

Our charity and Gift Aid

Forthcoming Projects

North Steps

North Steps

Following the restoration of the South Steps in 2012, a similar restoration project started on the North steps on 5th December 2016.

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North Steps

Four years ago we carried out restoration to the south front steps of the Palace as they were moving away from the Palace. A similar issue is presenting itself on the other side of the Palace with the steps in front of the main entrance.

The North Steps are showing significant signs of movement and deterioration; cracks have appeared indicating that they are gradually moving away from the main portico. A project is proposed to both stabilise and repair the steps.

Whilst working in this area we will also be looking to address other issues including the damage to the stone on north facing fronts of the pediments in the courtyard and the water ingress problems in the Undercroft of the Palace.

We have carried out extensive investigations into this area and believe the problem in part is caused by a layer of clay used in the original construction having shrunk or otherwise moved, unfortunately we will be unable to fully identify the cause of the problem until the steps are lifted. The first phase of the project is due to run through from December 2016 to the end of May 2017, subsequent phases may be required to the pediments to either side depending upon what we find. 

Estimated project cost: £350,000

Roof Light

Roof Light

The original bronze roof light frames above the red staircase inside the Palace require repair and re-glazing.

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Roof Light

The original bronze framed roof lights are in need of repair. This will involve scaffolding the red staircase and removing the roof light temporarily with a crane. It will be repaired, re-glazed and a safety cage constructed around it to allow safe access for cleaning and maintenance. It will also open up previously inaccessible areas of the roof for safe regular maintenance where previously a scaffold would have been required. A general guiding principle for the Palace maintenance is “Roof First”: if we prioritise the roof, by extension it protects the interior.

Estimated project cost: £50,000

The Water Terrace Redecoration & Stone Masonry Repairs

The Water Terrace Redecoration & Stone Masonry Repairs

As part of an ongoing 7 year rolling maintenance program the Water Terraces and Palace South front require repair and maintenance.

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The Water Terrace Redecoration & Stone Masonry Repairs

We have a planned maintenance program in place for the external redecoration of the Palace involving a 7 year rolling program. Many of the windows are original and it is essential to keep the paintwork in good repair to prevent water ingress and rot setting in. The next stage of this program is to complete the Water Terraces elevation, followed by starting on the South Front.

To carry out the redecoration scaffold has to be erected, whist it is in place we use this opportunity to check all stone work and carry out repairs where necessary. The stone suffers 2 main causes of damage;

  • Frost damage – over time water seeps into the stone, in cold spelling this can freeze causing the stone to crack and crumble
  • Iron cramps – the stones are held together in many instances with iron cramps or pegs, over time as the stone absorbs water these corrode, expand and blow the stone apart. We then need to cut out the iron and replace with stainless steel and where necessary new stone. This is a never ending program and each redecoration revisit to an elevation identifies new areas of damage and required repairs

 Estimate project cost:  Water Terraces £120,000 / South front £300,000

Maintenance of the Lake

Maintenance of the Lake

Created by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown between 1768 - 1771 and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the Lake is in need of maintenance in order to preserve both the natural habitat and historical landscape.

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Maintenance of the Lake

The lake was created between 1768 and 1771 by Lancelot Capability Brown and is classified as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) most notably due to its suitability for over-wintering migrating wading birds, it is also very significant in the context of the Capability Brown landscape and the WHS listing. The lake was created by building a dam across the flow of the River Glyme.

We have noticed over the last 10 years a gradual, but accelerating, decline in the condition of the lake, particularly upstream of the Grand Bridge, which is now classified by Natural England as “unfavourable and declining”. This decline has been manifested in the build-up of silt, combined with nutrients and pollutants trapped in the silt resulting from historic practises within the catchment upstream.  Our advice is that Queen Pool in particular is in a downwards spiral that nature will not be able to correct alone and that it will continue at an ever increasing rate without human constructive intervention. Failure to address this will ultimately result in harm to the landscape and parts of the lake reverting to wetland.

Statistics about the Lake:

  • 70% of the lake upstream of the Grand Bridge has a water depth of 30cm or less (originally approx. 2.1m deep in Queen Pool)
  • 75% of the volume of the lake upstream of the Grand Bridge is now silt.
  • The lake silt increases by between 1cm and 2cm a year but can increase by as much as 20cm depending on the prevailing conditions.

The solution is a multi-faceted, multi-stakeholder one, primarily involving dredging, improved catchment management, and upgrading the Thames Water sewage plant. The project is planned to take place over the next 5 years, we anticipate dredging will start in 2 to 3 years’ time at a cost estimated to be in the region of £5m.

Estimated project cost: £5,000,000

The Willis Organ

Along with many of the treasures inside the Palace, the Willis Organ in our Long Library requires constant restoration and up-keep.

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The Willis Organ

Past Projects

Walled Kitchen Garden (2016)

After years of weathering the Kitchen Garden gateway and surrounding brick work needed restoration.

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Walled Kitchen Garden (2016)
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Walled Kitchen Garden (2016)

Designed by Sir William Chambers (who also designed the Temple of Diana and New Bridge) in the mid-18th Century, the stone gateway and flanking brick garden walls were for many years in a poor state of repair as a result of severe weathering and damage caused by self-seeding plants in between the gaps in the structure. 

The project took four months to complete and involved carefully dismantling and rebuilding the top half of the gateway back to its original alignment, replacing stones in poor condition, taking down and rebuilding areas of the brick wall and redecoration of the 19th Century iron gate.

Project cost: £60,000

Indian Room Restoration (2015/2016)

Following centuries of wear and tear, the beautiful Indian Room wallpaper needed a complete restoration.

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Indian Room Restoration (2015/2016)
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Indian Room Restoration (2015/2016)

Following centuries of wear and tear, the decision was finally made to give the beautiful Indian Room the care it needs to restore it to its former glory. Since November 2014 a small team of specialist art and wallpaper conservators has been painstakingly removing the panels of wallpaper, stripping off the old glue and canvas, and steaming out the stains which have accumulated on the paper over the years. The project was completed in February 2016.

Project cost: Tbc

Ice House (2015)

One of the latest restoration projects as part of our Higher Level Stewardship Agreement is the Ice House, located within the park, approximately 1km east of the Palace.

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Ice House (2015)
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Ice House (2015)

One of the latest restoration projects as part of our Higher Level Stewardship Agreement is the Ice House, located within the park, approximately 1km east of the Palace.

The Ice house was designed by Henry Wise, Royal Gardener to Queen Anne and George I, for the 1st Duke of Marlborough, and was built in 1707. The structure of the building consists of a mound three metres high and 20 metres in diameter. The large chamber inside is eight metres deep and was used up until the early 1950s when it was blocked off after sources say a cow fell down having strayed through the door!

The original purpose of the building was for the storage of ice for use in the kitchens at Blenheim Palace. Sheets of ice are said to have been carried from reservoirs on the Estate and slid on to racks in the Ice House for summer use.  

The main threat to the Ice House was its perilous state of disrepair. The principal aim of the works is to safeguard the building for future generations.

The restoration project took four months and involved the rebuilding of the entrance façade and connecting tunnel, and repairs to fractured brickwork dome.

Project cost: £120,000

Visitor Car Park (2014)

One of the latest projects to improve our visitor experience was the development of our car park, which has been laid with a new tarmac and gravel surface.

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Visitor Car Park (2014)
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Visitor Car Park (2014)

One of the latest projects to improve our visitor experience at Blenheim Palace is the laying of a new surface in our existing visitor car park.

Previously, visitors to the Palace have parked on a grass surface, which has caused some inconvenience, especially in wet weather. The area has been re-surfaced with tarmac and gravel in the style of our Pleasure Gardens car park and is now large enough to park over 300 cars.

Project cost: £700,000

Butterfly House (2014)

The Butterfly House located in the Pleasure Gardens has welcomed visitors to its vibrant tropical climate since the early 1980's.

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Butterfly House (2014)
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Butterfly House (2014)

The Butterfly House located in the Pleasure Gardens has welcomed visitors to its vibrant tropical climate since the early 1980's. Owing to years of weathering and an increasingly weakening structure the decision was made to completely rebuild, thus making it a safe and healthy environment for both the butterflies and our visitors.

The new Butterfly House is bigger, with an extended entrance area and larger water feature. It also is home to a range of butterfly species from countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Project cost: £100,000

East Courtyard Clock Tower (2013/2014)

From September 2013 to April 2014 the East Courtyard clock tower underwent a complete restoration.

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East Courtyard Clock Tower (2013/2014)
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East Courtyard Clock Tower (2013/2014)

From September 2013 to April 2014 the East Courtyard clock tower underwent a complete restoration. The extent of the repairs included stone-work, plaster and timber, and the restoration of the clock itself. The repairs were mainly to the stonework. Years of weathering and moisture penetration had caused the iron cramps to rust and expand which had resulted in significant cracking. All four of the clock faces were also completely re-gilded using 23.5 carat gold sheets, giving a beautiful finish to this iconic part of Blenheim Palace. 

Project cost: £220,000

South Lawn Ha-ha Wall (2013/2014)

Between April 2013 and July 2014 a team of seven stone-wallers carefully took down and restored 'Capability' Brown's ha-ha wall, which runs across the South Lawn.

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South Lawn Ha-ha Wall (2013/2014)
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South Lawn Ha-ha Wall (2013/2014)

Between April 2013 and July 2014 a team of seven stone-wallers carefully took down and restored 'Capability' Brown's ha-ha wall, which runs across the South Lawn opposite the Palace and down the Formal Gardens to the east. The detail of this dry stone wall is meticulous, with each stone is shaped to fit exactly, giving an impressive finish. Since it is close to the site of many of our events, you will be sure not to miss it.

Project cost: £120,000

Restoration of the Waldo Story Fountain (2013)

After a 30 year period the Mermaid Fountain, designed and built by Waldo Story, was in desperate need of a full restoration and clean.

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Restoration of the Waldo Story Fountain (2013)
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Restoration of the Waldo Story Fountain (2013)

The fountain had not been cleaned or re-gilded for over 30 years, and with a thick layer of limescale and an uneven surface, it was in desperate need of restoration. The bronze statue was rebuffed and polished with wax and the old layers of gold paint were removed and replaced with gold leaf. The fountain is now drained and cleaned every winter in order to prevent any future deterioration. 

Project cost: £50,000

Restoration of the Roundel (2012)

Previously referred to as the 'exedra', in 2012 the Roundel was restored and turned into a beautiful water feature.

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Restoration of the Roundel (2012)
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Restoration of the Roundel (2012)

In the late 1890s and early 1900s the Roundel was in its finest condition, but the 21st century saw this garden feature in need of restoration and rejuvenation. In early 2012 the 11th Duke of Marlborough, with the generous support of the USA Blenheim Foundation, undertook the task of restoring the Roundel. The statue was refurbished, and an ornamental pond created with 12 water jets around the outside to create a circle of water to play over the statue at the centre.

Project cost: £70,000

Development of the East Courtyard Visitor Centre (2011/2012)

Opened in 2012 by Prime Minister David Cameron and the largest development to take place at Blenheim Palace in 200 years.

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Development of the East Courtyard Visitor Centre (2011/2012)
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Development of the East Courtyard Visitor Centre (2011/2012)

The extensive redevelopment project involved the covering in of the former Palace laundry drying yard in the East Courtyard to create a new retail area and visitor reception facilities, and converting the old laundry, which had been used as a storage space, into new and expanded toilet facilities. 

Project cost: £2.7 million

Repair and Restoration of the ‘Capability’ Brown Dam (2009)

Built by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown in the period between 1764 - 1774 to hold back waters of the River Glyme, in 2009 essential repair works had to be carried out.

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Repair and Restoration of the ‘Capability’ Brown Dam (2009)
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Repair and Restoration of the ‘Capability’ Brown Dam (2009)

The dam was constructed between 1764 and 1774 by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown to hold back the waters of the River Glyme and create the centre of his landscape at the end of the Blenheim Lake. Owing  to the age of the dam and the requirements of the Reservoirs Act, repairs and engineering works to strengthen it were deemed essential.

The works were carried out between May and October 2009, and addressed two areas:

  • Essential repairs were required to the core along the length of the of the dam to stop a number of significant leaks
  • Upgrading and strengthening works as required under the Reservoirs’ Act to allow the dam to withstand a 1 in 10,000 year weather event.

On completion of the project, 36,000 daffodils were planted around the dam, making it a spectacular attraction every spring.

Project cost: £1.8 million

Repair and Conservation of the North Portico Ceiling (2007/2008)

After 80 years, the eyes on the North Portico ceiling were fully restored back to their former glory.

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Repair and Conservation of the North Portico Ceiling (2007/2008)
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Repair and Conservation of the North Portico Ceiling (2007/2008)

Painted in 1928 for Gladys Deacon, wife of the 9th Duke, the striking eyes had after 80 years suffered from exposure to the elements and damage from a leak in the portico roof above and were restored in 2007/2008. The project took five months to complete by a team of specialists, and involved intricate repairs to the plaster work and conservation of the original paint work.

Project cost: £130,000

Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1PS

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