ll An historic part of Huntingdonshire’s heritage is no longer at risk of falling into ruin after conservation work was carried out.
Hinchingbrooke Park wall and Pepys steps have been taken off the Heritage at Risk Register, after repair work carried out by specialist conservators helped sure them up for the future.
The ‘at risk register’ is compiled annually by Heritage England and monitors listed buildings and scheduled monuments throughout the UK, helping arrange grant funding and repair for buildings which have fallen into disrepair.
Hinchingbrooke House has a connection with many prominent figures from history, including Richard Cromwell, who was gifted the House by Henry VIII in 1538, Elizabeth I, James I who stayed there on his journey from Edinburgh to London, Oliver Cromwell, the Earls of Sandwich, and Samuel Pepys.
The Grade II* park wall and Pepys steps were mostly likely commissioned by the first Earl of Sandwich, Edward Montagu, when he designed the garden in the mid-1660s. On visiting his patron and cousin, The Earl of Sandwich, Samuel Pepys notes in his diary ‘my lord…singly demanded my opinion in the walks in his garden, about the brining of the crooked wall on the mount to a shape’. This anecdote has stuck, and the steps and terrace walk have since been named after the diarist.
The site has been removed from the register this year because of Historic England grant-aided repairs to the wall and steps. These included some rebuilding and replacement of brickwork and repointing to the wall. Pepys steps have suffered subsidence over the years and required careful and accurate rebuilding.
As a result of the project, the entry on the National Heritage List for England for the park wall fronting Brampton Road was amended to more accurately describe the special architectural and historic interest of the structure, which merit its inclusion on the list at Grade II*. The project was successfully completed in the spring.
The Heritage at Risk Register 2016 reveals that in the East of England, 77 Grade I and II* buildings, 184 scheduled monuments, 103 places of worship, five registered parks and gardens, one protected wreck site and 42 conservation areas are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate change. There are 412 assets on the East of England Register, 22 fewer than in 2015.
John Neale, acting planning director for Historic England in the East of England said: “From historic landscapes to industrial buildings and military heritage, there are many challenges when sites become at risk. Historic England continues to invest grant aid and to dedicate time and expertise working with owners, developers and communities to find solutions to rescue precious sites in the East of England so people can continue to enjoy them and the stories they tell about our past.”