Wentworth Castle Gardens has unveiled its newly restored Victorian conservatory – 10 years after planning first began to restore the glasshouse to its former glory.
The £3.74m renovation of the Grade 2 listed glasshouse is the end of a fundraising campaign started after the building was featured on the BBC programme Restoration in 2003.
Claire Herring, director of Wentworth Castle Heritage Trust, said: “We didn’t win the BBC programme but coming third really sparked something in us to make sure this work went ahead one way or another, before the conservatory was lost forever.
“Six years ago, the only thing holding it up was scaffolding. It’s been a long journey to get to this point, and I don’t think it’s sunk in yet that we’ve really done it.
“For the longest time, the conservatory has been a sad and neglected part of this, otherwise lovely, house and really let down the rest of the garden experience. Now the heart of the garden and is back and we can’t wait to have visitors come and see it.”
Some 4,000 parts of the glasshouse were dismantled, labelled, cleaned and restored in the past 15 months.
Thirty-five layers of paint were removed to reveal intricate detail and the original creamy white colour, encaustic tiles were laid inside the conservatory and all three sections of the crumbling roof replaced.
Claire said: “We did our best to salvage what we could of the original glasshouse, but sometimes we had to settle for replicating things in the original materials.
“The main structural columns, for example, had corroded beyond use and we also didn’t fight for the glass, which was from the 1970s and not that special.
“Instead we chose to source glass that would mimic the kind that would have been used in 1885 when the conservatory was first built”.
The interior planting is based around the continents of the world, with five beds explaining how different plant species first arrived in Britain.
A gallery in the potting shed will tell the house’s history and the plant hunters who helped create Wentworth Castle’s gardens.
The restoration has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Regional Development Fund, English Heritage and the Country Houses Foundation.
Fiona Spiers, head of Heritage Lottery Fund for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “This project opens an exciting new chapter for Wentworth Castle as a major heritage attraction for the north.”