Whose working at the Gothic Tower?

Hello! We’re Cliveden Conservation and we’re carrying out the conservation project at Wimpole’s Gothic Tower.

CCW-team working on all levels copyWho are Cliveden Conservation?

We were founded in 1982, originally for the preservation of the National Trust buildings and statuary, then branched out and became our own company. Our enthusiastic and highly skilled conservators work out of our 3 workshops across England to conserve and restore buildings, stone, sculpture, plaster and the decorative arts. Our projects, small and large, take us to places all over the world, but we’ve maintained strong ties with the National Trust and are pleased to be leading the Gothic Tower conservation project.




What is the conservation project?

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Wall prior to conservation commencing

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Wall following removal of vegetation

In order to make the folly more accessible for the public, an amount of work needs to be done to bring it back to life and make it safe for visitors.

What that entails is

  • Archaeological investigations: to understand the full history of the folly
  • Removing vegetation: from the towers and ruined wall tops
  • Cleaning stone surfaces: to remove loose material and help the stone “breath”
  • Pointing and mortar repairs: making the folly’s stone and brickwork stable and safe to be around, and making the wall tops weatherproof
  • Measuring stones that will be replaced
  • Drawing plans

CCW-removing vegetation and dismantling precarious stone work copyAll these tasks have been carried out or are currently underway. The tasks we have ahead of us are the:

  • Replacement of decayed and damaged stonework
  • Shelter coating: to consolidate and help weatherproof stone surfaces
  • Reinstatement of historic elements: such as brick steps and the wooden porch at the base of the tower, doors, windows, and crenellations at the top of the tower

We have a great team here at the folly, working hard in all weather conditions. If you climb the scaffold on the Gothic Tower Scaffold Tours, you’ll be able to spot us busily working around the site. You may even see us working up close and personal as we work our way around the main tower.

Gothic Tower Conservation Project

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An engraving of the Gothic Tower at Wimpole

In June 1749 Sanderson Miller was asked by George Lyttelton to design a ruined Gothic castle for his friend Lord Hardwicke. This was to be similar to the one erected by Miller in the grounds of Hagley Hall in 1748-9.


The Gothic Tower surrounded by scaffold with the scaffold stairwell leading to two viewing platforms.

Those of you who are frequent visitors to Wimpole, either walking in the park or viewing the Gothic Tower from the garden, will have noticed recently that it has been enveloped in scaffolding.  This is to allow access to the structure whilst it undergoes major conservation works undertaken by Cliveden Conservation.


Stonework of the arrow slits






Made possible through funding from DEFRAs Higher Level Scheme (HLS) managed by Natural England, the conservation of the tower structure and stonework is part of the project due to be completed by December 2014. At the same time, further funding from the National Trust will allow the reinstatement of the windows, doors and external rear staircase.

So what’s the plan?
• Repairs to all stonework and walls
• Reinstatement of the crenellation on top of the tower, windows, doors and the external rear staircase.
• Conservation of flora and fauna with an increase in the short grass conservation areas
• Removal of fence line in front of the tower and improving public access to the exterior of the building.

Do you have a head for heights?


A great view beyond

Take this unique opportunity to climb the scaffold to experience the view from the same height as the Prospect Room within the tower and get a sense of what it would have been like for past visitors.  You’ll get a great view of the Hall and surrounding park from the scaffold and also find out about how it is being conserved from our volunteers.


Captain,his Valet and the Boss

Captain, his Valet and the Boss

There I am sitting at home nursing my arthritic hips and I start to wondering why do people visit the farm.

I kind of get people with my background coming: grew up in London never seen a farm moved to the country and thought hey lets go look at a farm. Why do people who live in the country want to visit the farm at Wimpole – whats different to the other farms round about them -Is it just because they can get access is or is it different?

I guess its a farm with visitors rather than a visitor farm ie its not a farm theme park but a working farm that people can visit. So is there a compromise here? On the farm you get to groom the donkeys watch the pigs being fed, watch the cows being milked, stroke the Shire horses even go on a carriage ride with the Shire horses. Do all these things mean its not a real farm? I suppose we could try and time warp the farm and say it is only going to function the way it did in 1800 and dot – but when is the right period to time warp it? Bronze Age, last week some guess of what it will be like in the 22Century?

My personal view is its about showing people how a farm works, protecting rare breeds and giving the visitors a good day out.OK to do this there may have to be some compromises around authenticity ie on a Victorian farm the Shires would be pulling a plow not a carriage full of people, but people like to ride on the carriage and they like to see the Shires do it.

The more people that come and enjoy themselves the more people support the estate and what its trying to do. Its a Win Win.



So there I was sitting on a train to London on my way to a seminar on what was originally thought to be “Dealing with difficult situations in the outdoors”. It transpired that the seminar was actually about, and I paraphrase a tad, “dealing with difficult volunteers” The participants were all volunteers or managers of volunteers in charities of the ilk of the NT.
Anyway the essence of the seminar appeared to me to be about managing volunteers as if they were employees ie facing up to the possibility (as a last resort) of running a full disciplinary that could result in the “sack” – which as an outcome I don’t have a problem with.

So there I am sitting on a train back from London post seminar and I get to thinking what is it that makes us volunteer; what is it that makes us a good volunteer; what is it that as a volunteer I get out of it; are volunteers different to manage than employees and should they be managed differently?

Wikipedia says: Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life. In return, this activity can produce a feeling of self-worth and respect. There is no financial gain involved for the individual. Volunteering is also renowned for skill development, socialization, and fun. It is also intended to make contacts for possible employment.

So why do I volunteer? I grew up on a rough council estate in London in the late 50’s early 60’s and despite the passing of the years I still get a buzz from the difference of being on the farm.I am completely animalphylic and can’t get enough time being with the Shire Horses.

Those who know me at Wimpole will testify to how shy I am (or not). A major plus in my day on the farm is talking to the customers (some prefer visitors!) mainly about the horses but also about the farm and the rest of the estate. The people who make the trip to visit the estate are its lifeblood and it could be argued the very reason for its being. A bit management speaky this but it is a win win: I go home happy having done something useful and the visitor goes home happy having had a good day and maybe having learnt a little.

I shall ,I think, ponder this more.

Attention on deck Captain is on board.


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My chap (George) has asked me to contribute to his blog by way of giving a Senior Officers view. It is paramount for the smooth running of any ship that Senior Officers maintain an awareness of whats happening in all parts of the vessel, as I spend all of my time in the stables or fields surrounded by crew members I am fortunate to be able to do this.

George has asked me to comment particularly on our newest recruit Lady our 10month old Shire Foal. Capital young foal who is going great guns and growing at a rate of knots, must be close to 14 hands now (that’s 14 x 4inches high to her shoulders for those that don’t know).

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She had her 1st vaccination in February and the second one  in March and then there will be another one after 6 months. She seems to be enjoying the sunshine and Emma (CnC Heavy Horses) says she is being a good girl and stood beautifully to be vaccinated with the assistance of a piece of apple. Lady spends most of her time in a field with Daisy and Clementine our two Donkeys excellent types who can be relied on to keep an eye on her.
Right must go suns over the yard arm and all that.

I leave you with our first recipe using Wimpole’s finest comestibles:

Steph Turners Honey and Mustard Wimpole Sausage Recipe

You will need:
· 2 tbsp rapeseed oil (sunflower will do just as well)
· 6 Wimpole’s own Stockman’s special recipe sausages
· 4 tbsp clear honey
· 3 tbsp wholegrain or Dijon mustard
· Two roasting tins
· Small mixing bowl or jug

1. Preheat your oven to 200C/Gas 6/fan oven 180C. Pour the oil into a large roasting tin and heat in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Tip the sausages into the roasting tin and toss to lightly coat in the oil. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until browned and cooked through.
2. While you wait for them to cook, blend the honey and mustard together in a small bowl to make a yummy sauce.
3. Check Sausages are cooked by opening one of them slightly (if still pink give another 5 minutes)
4. Drain the sausages well on kitchen paper, then, tip them into a clean roasting tin, pour the honey and mustard sauce over the sausages; stir and shake them so they become coated. Return to the oven for 5 minutes, turning them over halfway.
5. Now you have a delicious edition to any hearty meal. Tuck in and enjoy!