Stowe in Buckinghamshire is a Georgian ducal palace, renowned for its beautiful landscape and for its school. It was shaped by the finest talents of the time, amongst them Sir John Vanbrugh, William Kent, Robert Adam and Sir John Soane. The restoration of this magnificent eighteenth-century mansion is one of the largest heritage projects ever undertaken in Britain.
Stowe featured on The Watch in 2002 and 2004 because it was in need of immediate help. For two hundred years, time, nature and neglect had eroded the stonework and the fine interiors. World Monuments Fund joined a private donor in a £10 million challenge to secure the future of Stowe House and enable much broader access. The mansion is the centrepiece of one of the most beautiful and complex historic landscapes in Britain as well as an inspiration for architects and designers all over the world. Our work has made the house increasingly accessible and better-known to a wider public.
Stowe House was included on the 2002 World Monuments Watch, whereupon it received funding for extensive conservation. The Robert W. Wilson Challenge to Conserve Our Heritage supported the restoration of the principle rooms at Stowe House, including the central Marble Saloon and the library. The repair of decorative treatments in the Music Room, the Egyptian Hall, the North Hall, the Dining Room, and the East Corridor and Staircase all benefitted from our attention. The Paul Mellon Estate supported the conservation of the State Music Room, one of the finest late-eighteenth-century spaces in Britain, as well as a skills training program that took place at the site. In 2013 two eighteenth-century lead lions returned to their original location at the southern entrance to the house after a long-term lease deal brokered with Blackpool, the city that had acquired the statues decades earlier in a 1921 auction. The return of the lions and the installation of some 30 spun copper urns marked the completion of exterior restoration work at Stowe.
An Architectural Icon
Stowe’s grandeur and beauty are complemented by a longer history. The centrepiece at the heart of an Arcadian landscape garden, Stowe House is a Georgian ducal palace a sixth of a mile wide. Representing an extraordinary investment in craftsmanship, this former hotbed of eighteenth-century politics tells a story of rags-to-riches-back to rags family tragedy.
I was a [pupil] in the early 40s and I feel sure that the beauty of Stowe had an effect we were hardly aware of at the time, but nevertheless has been a profound influence ever since. This is why I was keen to help…
Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, a major donor to the overall restoration