The Stowe you see today

Finished capital of the portico at the Temple of Concord & Victory at Stowe

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.

Visitors in 1991 look at the crumbling Conduit House in the parkland at Stowe
A black and white photograph from 1991 shows the crumbling state of the Conduit House in the parkland at Stowe. An adult and two young children are looking at it from the outside.
The Conduit House restored in 1992 in bright golden white limewash
The restored Conduit House in the parkland at Stowe is a small hollow structure made of bricks and painted in limewash and is octagonal in shape
Tennis courts once sat next to the Grade I listed Palladian Bridge at Stowe
A view of rubber tennis courts and fencing on the grass next to the Palladian Bridge from the days before the National Trust acquired the gardens from Stowe School.
Spend your lazy days at Stowe
Geese on water with the Palladian Bridge in the background at Stowe
The once grand Temple of Concord and Victory in the early 1990s is mostly bricked up after the columns were re-used in other buildings after the downfall of Stowe
A large temple building has been bricked up on the side of the building in replacement of missing columns to hold up the roof. This was a once grand Grecian style temple and is in a ruinous state. It was restored by the National Trust to its former glory.
The impressive Temple of Concord and Victory at Stowe
The Temple of Concord and Victory stands tall. A huge golden Grecian style temple with large coloums, collonades and portico with craved murals and statues sit on the top.

Returning home

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.

We welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors through the doors of our old Visitor Lodge before we moved to New Inn in 2012. It was a lovely home, but like most family homes it couldn't grow with us
The old visitors centre at Stowe was a wooden lodge hut, with a small entrance and tiny desk and shop.

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. 

Aerial footage of the New Inn from 2005 shows the state of disrepair the building was in
An image from the air shows the New Inn with crumbling barns, trees overgrowing the building and in a state of disrepair
The front of New Inn in 2005 before restoration
A brich building falling down with boarded up windows in 2005 is the New Inn before restoration
The New Inn once again open to public from 2012 after a 9 million pound restoration
A brick buildingg has an archway to walk into a central courtyard, surrounded by trees and bushes. The Front of the building has windows on three level as it were once a lodgings house for travelers to stay.

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.

Stowe Gardens' crumbling ruins

Restoring Stowe 2015-2019

2015 saw the start of a new phase of restoration for the gardens at Stowe. The Landscape Programme comprises of 54 tasks taking place over five years to reinstate many of the lost temples and monuments that once ‘dressed’ the gardens like pieces of a theatre set whilst undertaking maintenance on structures and lakes. Read more and keep up to date here.

The future

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. 

Forever for everyone, how you can help restore Stowe?

Help us continue on this journey of restoration with a charitable donation, we're currently looking to raise vital funds of £695,000. Every donation will help make a significant impact on Stowe over the next five years. You'll be able to come back year after year and enjoy seeing it develop.