The National Trust team has now begun the huge task of finding a new way to tell the story of the 17th-century house, transforming the garden and building a lasting legacy for the attraction.
While the builders have now left, it will take the area on the East Front a couple of months to recover – with the outdoors team re-landscaping the area after half-term. The former parterre area on the West Front will be restored towards the end of the summer.
The lower floors of the house include a new temporary exhibition, ‘The King & the Courtier: Dyrham’s Garden Revealed’, which looks at how the 17th-century Dutch water garden was built. Also in the house, the ‘Mr Blathwayt’s apartment’ sensory experience – newly installed last year – remains with five dressed rooms giving visitors a sense of what it was like to live in the 17th Century.
‘We wanted to tell the story of Dyrham Park in a way which hadn’t been done before,’ said Kate Collins, Visitor Experience Manager at Dyrham Park. ‘When the roof was complete and we started unpacking the collection, we had a real opportunity to do something different and that is what we’ve done. The new garden exhibition works nicely alongside the work being undertaken in the actual garden and the new Conservation studio, inspired by the Collections store we had last year, gives people a behind-the-scenes look at how we care for the collection.
‘Last year, we invited people to see Dyrham differently with the bird’s eye view from the walkway and while you can no longer get that vantage point, we’re continuing to ask people to see Dyrham differently with new explorations of our history and the ever-changing park and garden.’
2015 was a record-breaking year for Dyrham Park, with almost 218,000 visitors passing through the gates, nearly half of whom went up on a fully accessible rooftop walkway to see the conservation in action.
It took almost 200 trades people, including roofers, scaffolders, carpenters and lead workers, to complete the conservation project – on time and within budget. The project has received recognition within the National Trust, with several internal awards and was recently shortlisted for Restoration or Conservation and Fundraisers of the Year at the annual Museums & Heritage Awards for Excellence.
National Trust Project Manager Colette Cuddihy said: ‘We couldn’t have hoped for a better project really – not only did everything go smoothly, but it proved a seminal year for Dyrham Park with visitors really getting behind the conservation work and the fundraising, something we hope will continue for many years to come.
‘We’d like to thank everybody who got behind this vital project, from the major funders such as Heritage Lottery Fund to individual donors and everyone who visited us during the project as well as the staff and volunteers who made it all possible. Special mention must also go to the architects and building team who helped ensure we could remain open throughout this project.’
The new roof includes thousands of signed slates, part of the ‘sign a slate’ fundraising effort. Lord Julian Fellowes and the Countess of Wessex took part, along with several artists, including Dave Sproxton at Aardman Animations and many thousands of visitors to Dyrham Park. Grants from Cory Environmental Trust in Britain, Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust, the Royal Oak Foundation and many others all helped the charity to deliver the conservation project.
A new biomass boiler, which was installed towards the end of the conservation project, is now fully operational with the old oil burner safely disposed of, reducing the National Trust’s overall oil usage significantly.
The green house roof was repaired thanks to further financial support from Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust. Rotten beams were replaced, 2,000 panes of glass refurbished and stonework repaired. Tin guttering was replaced with lead and proper ventilation introduced. The greenhouse is now watertight and can be reclaimed for its traditional use as a home to citrus plants.
Dyrham Park is situated just off junction 18 of the M4 – 8 miles north of Bath and 12 miles east of Bristol and is open daily from 10am-5pm (last entry 4pm).
More information is available at: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/DyrhamPark