There have been a number of stonework reinstatement projects since the last March. First, four large plinth stones have been reinstalled in their original position at the end of the Causeway. These had been dismantled in the 1950s but not removed from the site. Second, as many people know, the very elaborate conservatory or Wintergarden was dynamited around 1960. However, the semi-circular part was not affected – although the stonework is partly missing or lifted out of alignment by sycamore roots which infested the area before we cleared it. Our stonemasons have dismantled the dislodged stones on the eastern side, cleaned them and re-fitted them with lime mortar and stainless steel clamps (see photograph by Peter Gamble below).
In the Priory Garden we have started to rebuild the loggia. We have erected six of the stone columns, together with their bases and capitals. We recovered these columns several years ago from Bullwood Hall Women’s Prison where they were taken by Lord Chelmer in the 1950s. There were originally 10 columns but the other four have been incorporated into a building in Essex and cannot be recovered. We will have replacements made in due course when we have enough funds to complete the loggia. Essex Heritage Trust has given £10,000 towards this work. Continuing our stonework projects, in the Walled Kitchen Garden we have had an extra York stone step made and installed as a third step down from the central eastern entrance. This makes it safer for visitors to enter the garden. We would also like to rebuild the short walls either side of these steps so that handrails can be attached (see Wish List).
Work has also started on rebuilding the eastern part of the Orchard House. This has made possible by a generous donation of £20,000 from Howard Styles. Also, we have installed another two lengths of metal espalier fencing either side of the path leading to the south gates.
In the lower gardens, the Rock Garden has recovered from its severe flooding with the loss of only a few plants. Nearby, the circular room,made from white flowering philadelphus, has been much improved by careful pruning by one of the two green-fingered trustees. Adjacent, the archaeologists continue to dig up the lawn. They are searching for clear evidence of the layout of the 17th century formal gardens for the Elizabethan house. This work is of great value for two reasons. First, it forms an important part of the educational courses that are run for us by WEAG (the West Essex Archaeological Group) and secondly we need the information discovered to add to our knowledge of the site. One day we might even restore a part of these formal gardens if the evidence is comprehensive enough.
Six stone columns from the loggia, together withtheir bases and capitals, have been reinstatedin the south front garden (Priory Garden).