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Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire

acta was the lead consultant in the preparation of a conservation management plan for all aspects of the Wimpole estate, including the grade I Wimpole Hall, grade I park and garden, grade II* model farm and 1000ha estate. The hall contains the work of some of England’s leading architects, including James Gibbs, Henry Flitcroft and Sir John Soane, while the gardens and park show the influence of most of the major landscape improvers of the long eighteenth century, such as Bridgeman, Brown, Repton and Emes.

Two particular themes featured in the plan.

  • The first was the sterling work of the Fourth Earl of Hardwicke in the mid-nineteenth century in repairing and rebuilding the work of his predecessors. Many features that were originally eighteenth–century are substantially Victorian in their present form. This includes his like-for-like replacement of trees within the park.
  • The second was the importance of understanding the aspirations and actions of the last private owner, Mrs Elsie Bambridge, who was Rudyard Kipling’s daughter. She brought back to Wimpole some of the collection that had been dispersed in the early twentieth century, but let many aspects of the estate go. For example when the Trust acquired the property in 1976 most of the gardens were a blank canvas and were reinstated in a substantially modern way. Her antipathy to the military use of the park and buildings in the Second World War disguised the importance of this phase of the estate’s history.

Client – National Trust

  1. The north parterre was restored in the 1990s after the original design was revealed by the way that snow showed up the original shape of the beds. The parterre leads directly into the park and what Humphry Repton called an ‘eyetrap’ focussing attention on the tower of the Gothic folly beyond
  2. Capability Brown’s lake forms the middle ground of the view from the Gothic folly with one of the lime avenues cresting the ridge beyond
  3. Gibbs and Thornhill’s 1720s chapel is one of the masterpieces of English baroque but poses problems of access and circulation
  4. The south front looks out across Bridgman’s three mile long south avenue, which succumbed to Dutch elm disease but was replanted with limes mainly propagated from within the site in the 1990s
  5. A spectacular long avenue crosses the site from east to west with the parterre as an incident in the middle
  6. Almost all of the important maps and plans for the site, such as this one by Bridgeman, survive. Map regression was a key part of putting together the evidence for the conservation plan
  7. The home farm was designed by Sir John Soane and is complemented by Victorian additions to make a fine grouping
  8. The Arrington Gates are the most prominent of the Fourth Earl of Hardwicke’s contributions to the landscape. The detailing on the gates, designed by Henry Kendall, is to be found as a recurrent theme throughout the landscape
  9. The Gothic folly, after an original design by Sanderson Miller, appears in almost every book about eighteenth-century designed landscapes
  10. Ridge and furrow earthworks and the remains of dispersed settlements cover most of the park. There has been a long history of high quality research and recording of the medieval landscape. This 1955 photograph captures both the earthworks and the many elm trees – sometimes dating from before the establishment of the park- before they succumbed to disease