The missing pig and lost summerhouse at Newark

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If it hadn't been for a curious pig, the latest restoration project at Newark Park might never have happened – and a 250-year-old building might have been lost for ever. Thanks to a missing pig, two inspired men and the National Trust, this intriguing building has been secured for the future.

Discovery

When the pig, an escapee from the farm next door, wandered into the undergrowth one day, Bob Parsons, tenant at Newark at the time, decided to follow it. The animal led him through a dense wall of undergrowth and into the ruins of an 18th-century summerhouse. Bob knew the summerhouse was far too important to be allowed to decay any further, and carried out temporary repairs, quite literally to stop the rot. But there was no money for a proper restoration. When he died in 2000 at the age of 80, the summerhouse remained an enigmatic shell.

Funding

Restoration was made possible by an unexpected gift from John Lyons, a local man who came forward after the death of his mother Freda in 1997. Mrs Lyons had been a regular visitor to Newark and had particularly loved walking with her son in the garden. John decided that the completion of the summerhouse would be a fitting memoriam to her, and offered the sum of £35,000 to make the work possible. The balance of the money came from the estate of the late historian and author Alec Clifton-Taylor, who left a bequest to the National Trust dedicated to the restoration of windows in vernacular buildings.

Restoration

Rendering put up to safeguard the building had to be removed, and the surviving timbers repaired and replaced as necessary. There was no roof and only one intact window, which was used as a model for replacement frames. A certain amount of informed guesswork had to be used in roofing the building, as the original roof had completely disappeared. A new roof was constructed using lead sheeting.

Completed in 2009, the summerhouse is once again a focal point in the gardens at Newark.