The restoration and conservation of Chastleton

Preservation project at Chastleton

The last owner of Chastleton was Barabara Clutton-Brock, who inherited it from her husband Alan after his death in 1976.

Many years of financial constraints had meant Chastleton was in a serious state of disrepair and it required a huge investment to keep the property standing and preserve its unique story.

Over the years the family had taken steps to generate income from the house. It had been opened to the public since 1936, guided tours were given and a guide book was produced, but it was not enough and in 1991, the decision was made to sell the house and its garden.

It was initially advertised with an estate agent before being purchased by the National Heritage Memorial Fund in September 1991. It was then immediately passed to the National Trust for its long-term care and to open it to the public.

Although the site was acquired in 1991, it was not opened to the public for several years due to the amount of work it needed.

The aim of the National Trust was to keep the unique feel of Chastleton and preserve the romantic air of decline that enveloped the site. There had never been enough funds available to modernise or add to the house at any point in its history, so to make a drastice change to appearance would have gone against the spirit of the site. 

This approach was nationally and internationally recognised and the restoration of the house won a number of awards.

In May 1991 the then Director General of the National Trust wrote a memo detailing the approach that should be taken towards Chastleton:

' Our aim must be to lay as light a hand as possible on Chastleton, to arrest 150 years of progressive decay with an almost imperceptible tightening of the reins'

A great deal of research was carried out to understand how the house was used, and the National Trust spent two years on this before any work started. 

The restoration of Chastleton

Year 1: Summer 1994 - Autumn 1995

The first year of the work focussed on the main structural elements of the property, particularly jobs that required extensive scaffolding around the house, such as the roof and external walls. 

Putting up the scaffolding around the house
Putting up the scaffolding around the house
Putting up the scaffolding around the house

Jobs included repointing the chimney pieces, painting moss onto new mortar to help it look older, stripping all the tiles from the roof, cutting stone to repair window frames on the top floor, and repairing plaster bulges in the house, amongst many other major pieces of structural work.

Painting moss onto new mortar to help it look older
Painting moss onto new mortar to help it look older
Painting moss onto new mortar to help it look older

Year 2: Winter 1995 - Summer 1996

The second year focussed on the internal spaces of the house, primarily looking at the fixed decoration. 

Work had started on some pieces of conservation tasks, but the house had over 4000 objects that need recording, conserving and storing. 

Packing away drawings and watercolours into boxes for storage
Packing away drawings and watercolours into boxes for storage
Packing away drawings and watercolours into boxes for storage

Tasks included conserving and repairing parts of the ceiling in the Long Gallery, working on and rehanging the numerous textile hangings, removing and re-backing wallpaper in some rooms.

Doing some conservation on the plasterwork
Doing some conservation on the plasterwork
Doing some conservation on the plasterwork

Year 3: Autumn 1996 - Summer 1997

The main focus of the third year of the project was returing the house to how it used to look and preparing it to be opened to the public. All of the items in the house went back to their places, a team of volunteers were recruited and trained and visitor access to the house was planned.

Discussing final preparations for re-opening the house to the public
Discussing final preparations for re-opening the house to the public
Discussing final preparations for re-opening the house to the public

Chastleton House and Garden has been fully open to the public for the last 20 years and has welcomed thousands of visitors. We hope to see you soon.