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Restored property wins top accolade

PUBLISHED: 14:24 09 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:17 23 August 2010

A GRADE 1 listed building - restored to its former glory after it suffered nearly 50 years of vandalism and neglect - has won a prestigious national award. The Darnley Mausoleum, situated in Cobham Park, has won Country House of the Year in the Country L

A GRADE 1 listed building - restored to its former glory after it suffered nearly 50 years of vandalism and neglect - has won a prestigious national award.

The Darnley Mausoleum, situated in Cobham Park, has won Country House of the Year in the Country Life magazine Awards.

Built in 1873, the burial tomb suffered years of vandalism and abuse, including a fire in the chapel in 1980, reducing the historic building to ruins.

In 2006, work began on its restoration as part of a project to conserve and enhance the whole of Cobham Park.

The Country Life Awards, launched to celebrate the individual and quirky British rural way of life, were judged last Wednesday.

Mark Hedges, editor of Country Life magazine, said: "The restoration of the Darnley Mausoleum is an outstanding achievement and has preserved an architectural masterpiece to be enjoyed by the public.

"Our glorious countryside has produced some extraordinary people who are dedicated to preserving the rural way of life."

The Darnley Mausoleum was built for John Bligh, the third Earl of Darnley. But throughout the 20th century, the mausoleum was left to fall into disrepair, and was targeted by vandals.

The Cobham and Ashenbank Management Scheme, which is made up of eight organisations including the National Trust, English Heritage and Kent County Council, provided funding for Gravesham Borough Council to purchase the Mausoleum and the surrounding woodland for £150,000.

It was also featured on BBC2's Restoration programme in 2003. In 2004, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £4.9million for a project to restore the framework of Cobham Park.

In September 2008, a group of invited guests, including council leaders, the restoration team and the current Lord Darnley, visited the Mausoleum to see the finished work.

Lord Darnley said at the visit: "I remember the mausoleum as a small boy. It wasn't until after 1980 did I see the real affect of the vandalism. I got that sinking feeling - how will we ever restore that?

"But in 1997, we started putting the CAMS project together and it seemed a long shot that we would finally get to where we are today, but it has been achieved."

The mausoleum is still not open to the public, but the National Trust hope to open it again in late spring next year.

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