The Stowe you see today
Subtle gardening and major works have all helped to make the restoration of the gardens at Stowe appear as though it were always the way you see it today. Discover our work since 1989 in this behind the scenes feature with some surprising images of the gardens in their dilapidated days.
Starting something special
Phase one for the National Trust involved the major restoration of the gardens and parkland. Some of the largest temples and monuments were in jeopardy of falling down or were hidden amongst a jungle of trees and shrubs that had taken hold over the years.
Here are some of the many sights before and after restoration.
When we opened the doors for the first time for public visitors, it all started with a little ticket shed by the front gates of the Oxford Avenue that led you up past the parkland and Stowe House. You'd enter the gardens near to Concord and Victory to discover everything from there.
As visitor, staff and volunteer numbers grew in size so did our welcome area. We had a wooden lodge as a Visior Reception and Shop for many years, though we knew this would always be a temporary home.
The time came when we had outgrown our home, things needed renewing and needed to increase in size. Sat within Grade I listed parkland, the lodge was just out of place. All along this entrance had also meant visitors were not experiencing the gardens as intended by Lord Cobham and his designers.
In the 1700s when Stowe was a visitor attraction, tourists had driven up Stowe Avenue, up to the Corinthian Arch and stayed at the New Inn. Here they could buy a guide book or stay overnight before walking down the Bell Gate Drive to enter the gardens. The entrance was designed to give subtle glimpses of the magnificent temples and House before you walked through and were left breath-taken by the views.
In 2003 phase two of restoring Stowe started with the acquisition and restoration of New Inn. It opened in 2012, reinstating the original entrance into the gardens via Bell Gate so that visitors were following in the footsteps of eighteenth-century tourists. We returned to the historic home of tourists, that offered a large complex for all of our supporters and a permanent solution that could help stabilise future growth.
The next chapter
2015 saw the start of phase three - The Landscape Programme. Comprising of 54 tasks taking place over five years to return the gardens to their former eighteenth-century glory as created by Lord Cobham. Highlights will include the return of missing statues, monuments, paths and the opening of parts of the gardens not currently open to the public.
By 2019 as we celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the gardens, the completion of the landscape programme have will have brought us considerably closer to our goal of restoring Stowe to its eighteenth-century heyday. But it won't stop there, we have many more temples in need of restoration, with your support we'll keep going to bring Stowe back to life and ensure it's Europe's finest landscape gardens that everyone can enjoy forever.