Victorian architecture restored to former glory at Brodsworth Hall and Gardens thanks to English Heritage

In the grounds of a Yorkshire stately home with an extraordinary history work has been under way to restore irreplaceable examples of Victorian garden architecture.

In the beautifully-preserved Victorian gardens at Brodsworth Hall, near Doncaster, two unique Grade II listed buildings will be drawing particular attention this summer.

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After a year-long conservation effort by English Heritage a special Swiss-style Target House and historical folly have been restored to their former glory.

In the beautifully-preserved Victorian gardens at Brodsworth Hall, near Doncaster, two unique Grade II listed buildings will be drawing particular attention this summer. Photo credit: JPIMedia

With its overhanging roof and Venetian window, the Target House, originally built in 1866 as the Archery House, was a place of rest and relaxation for the Thellusson family - whose ancestor Peter Thellusson had purchased the estate in 1791 - to shelter in the heat of the day and enjoy refreshments during archery practice.

Eleanor Matthews, English Heritage’s curator at Brodsworth Hall, said: “It’s been brilliant to be able to see the Target House come to life after the careful conservation work to secure its future.

"Archery was one of the few sports in which Victorian women were allowed to compete and the family would have spent a lot of time there to socialise so it’s great to share these stories with visitors in the new exhibition.

"The Target House was in many ways a house in its own right and records of furnishings in the 1880s include a table and two armchairs, a cast iron fender and set of fire irons, a chimney glass (mirror), and a carpet.

Head Gardener Dan Hale checking the restoration work on the folly the 'Eyecatcher ' in the grounds of Brodsworth Hall. Photo credit: Gary Longbottom/JPIMedia

"It certainly puts many modern garden sheds to shame! I’m delighted that the Target House will now be open for everyone to enjoy.”

The Victorian Eyecatcher, is a folly built in about 1866 also probably using stone from the demolished old Brodsworth Hall. A deliberately ruinous garden feature, it is designed to draw the eye along the long expanse of grass across from the Target House nearby.

A deliberately ruinous garden feature, it is designed to draw the eye along the long expanse of grass across from the Target House nearby.

Built on an artificial mound set into the quarry face, the Eyecatcher is a façade with a central blind doorway between two blind windows.

Flowers in the Target garden with The restored Target House in the background in the grounds of Brodsworth Hall. Photo credit: Gary Longbottom/JPIMedia

It too has received a new lease of life with repointed masonry and Brodsworth’s garden team have carefully re-instated its original surrounding planting with 1000 British native ferns, greatly adding to the important collection of rare ferns on site.

Brodsworth’s rose garden has also been restored to its original Victorian design, with more than 200 roses including heritage, shrub, ramblers and climbing varieties which would have been familiar to the Thellusson family in the 19th century.

Dan Hale, English Heritage’s head gardener at Brodsworth Hall, said: "We’ve put a lot of time into investigative work looking at historical records and making sure that we follow the original bedding plans for the Target Range and the rose garden.

"We were very lucky in that we were able to look to historic photographs which revealed the historic planting schemes, enabling us to recreate the garden with accuracy.

Jill Fearons a volunteer at Brodsworth Hall, cleaning the windows of the restored Target House in the gardens of the hall. Photo credit; Gary Longbottom/ JPIMedia

"With 1000 British native ferns planted around the Eyecatcher and roses which would have been popular during the Victorian period in bloom, walking through the range is now like looking through a little window into the past."

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