Restoration of the 'Tijou' Gates in Petworth Park

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In 2012 we were able to secure funding to conserve and restore our historic ‘Tijou’ Gates to their former glory. The gates date from the late 19th century and have fallen into disrepair over the years. In the 1990s much of the ironwork was removed and put into storage to protect it from further decay as corrosion had made some of the fixtures unstable. We’ve now started a project to repair the gates using the conservation expertise of local blacksmiths. You’ll find the gates on the West Front, past the far side of the house.

History of the gates

While the 3rd Earl of Egremont had been happy to open the estate to all in the 18th century, his successor the 2nd Lord Leconfield sought more privacy and this, along with the growing concern of burglary in the late 19th century, led to the installation of lockable iron gates to separate the private garden and Pleasure Grounds from the rest of Petworth Park.

Why are they known as ‘Tijou’?
The grand ironwork is in the style of 17th and 18th century French ironworker Jean Tijou and is based on his works at Hampton Court Palace. The design for the Petworth gates was drawn by Brawn and Downing and is undated but, from estate account records, we can place it between 1872 and 1876, a time when Lord Leconfield and his architect Anthony Salvin were making improvements to both the house and park.

A closer look
The gates themselves were clearly designed to demonstrate wealth and grandeur, but if you look even closer you’ll see two pairs of intricate iron wings as part of the design; this is the cipher of the 6th Duke of Somerset. The 6th Duke remodelled the house in baroque style, which you see today, during the late 1600s and presumably his cipher was chosen by the 2nd Lord Leconfield to complement the style of the house.

The Project

Stage one
We’ll start in the storage room, documenting the decoration that was removed in the 1990s and drawing a ‘mock-up’ of how the gates would have fitted together. The aim is to reuse as much of the original ironwork as possible.

Stage two
This stage sees the start of work on the gates by cleaning the ironwork. To remove rust the metal is washed then flame cleaned. Flame cleaning heats the iron using propane torches and the rust can then be brushed off with wire brushes. We’ll then add the first coat of primer paint. The site is also 'shrink wrapped' to protect the gates (and blacksmiths) from the winter weather.

Stage three
This involves repairing the damaged decorative elements, which are made of wrought iron. Where details are missing new elements will be made, but as wrought iron is non-renewable the new elements will be made using ‘real iron’. Primer paint will then be applied to reduce the risk of water damage and rust in the future.

Stage four
Re-attach the decoration to the gates and lift the large overthrow back into position at the top of the gates.

Stage five
The final coat of paint.

It’s thanks to generous funding from the Wolfson Foundation and the National Trust Levy fund that we are finally able to restore these beautiful gates.

Find out more

We’re running a series of guided tours to the ‘Tijou’ Gates, visit our events page for more details.

Burrows Lea Forge, the blacksmiths undertaking the restoration work, have also been blogging about their progress.