Wimpole’s Gothic Tower, cared for by the National Trust, was one of the 7 Grand Prix laureates, selected by independent expert juries, which were awarded in Madrid 24 May 2016 by the European Commission and Europa Nostra
A designed ruin
The Gothic Tower, designed to look like a picturesque medieval ruin, is based on a sketch by the architect Sanderson Miller in 1749 for his patron, Lord Hardwicke, the owner of Wimpole.
The design was later realised in an amended form under the supervision of the great landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown from 1768-72.
In the following centuries, the ruin suffered extensive and gradual damage with many important characteristics being completely eroded while public access to the Tower and landscape was near enough impossible.
The conservation project
Located in the magnificent parkland of Wimpole Estate, the Gothic Tower presented a complex conservation challenge for the National Trust. The work called for repair of the structure, stabilization of the stonework and reinstatement of missing components of the building, while preserving the weathered beauty and original ‘ruined’ appearance.
Wendy Monkhouse, National Trust Curator in the East of England during the project, said: “We’re delighted to have been recognized by the European Commission and Europa Nostra for the work we’ve done on the Gothic Tower – it’s the most prestigious heritage award in Europe, and it means a lot to the National Trust and to the staff and volunteers at Wimpole.
“Many people know and love the magnificent mansion and the 18th century farm, but the Tower was an almost forgotten ruin – a kind of sleeping beauty, literally surrounded by briar roses and nettles. Now, with its reinstated crenellations triumphant on the main Tower, it sits once more at the focal point of the landscape designed by Capability Brown, whose tercentenary we are celebrating this year.”
What the judges said
For the 2016 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards, independent expert juries assessed a total of 187 applications, submitted by organisations and individuals from 36 countries across Europe, and selected the winners.
In assessing Wimpole’s Gothic Tower, the Awards jury commented: “Intellectually, this project raises questions about the preservation of a designed ruin and inspires thought about the nature of conservation. It is informed by detailed research and archaeological recordings and is a model of cooperative endeavor. This is an extraordinary example of a restoration of an iconic ruin which has served as an example for the construction of similar structures in Europe.”