English Heritage restores 18th century statues at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire
Over recent years the ‘marble’ paint had begun to peel on the statues
Expert conservators have begun work to restore a series of 18th century statues in the French-style parterre garden at Wrest Park in Silsoe.
The 90-acre gardens, in the care of English Heritage showcase three centuries of garden design, and the restoration of two statues – each over three metres - marks the start of a wider conservation project.
The statues, which conservators have begun the painstaking job of restoring, were designed by English sculptor John Cheere (1709-1787).
Stone sculptures were an important feature of gardens in 18th century England but imported marble did not stand up well to the British climate. Cheere worked with alternative material to create elaborate sculptures with precise detail. The white painted finish was intended to imitate marble from a distance.
Over recent years the ‘marble’ paint had begun to peel on the statues, so conservators, Skillington Workshop Ltd, have been working to remove it.
To prevent damaging the surface beneath, they use high-temperature steam. Once the old paint is removed the statues are repainted to recreate their marble exterior.
Peter Moore, curator of collections, English Heritage said: “It is wonderful to see the statues restored to their former glory in the parterre garden, and to encounter them as they would have been when they first came to Wrest Park hundreds of years ago.
"Heritage gardens provide revealing insights into the people who created them, and there’s no better example than Wrest Park where there are over 70 statues and monuments to discover in the grounds. The care of these outdoor sculptures is just as important as the care of the collection inside the house.”
The gardens and grounds of Wrest Park are currently open to visitors, with new social distancing measures in place. Tickets are available to book here for all dates between now and May 16.