Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Birth & Rebirth of Hardwick Park (NZ344290)

Gothic Ruin Folly, Hardwick Park

A visit to the modern-day Hardwick Park, near Sedgefield, at the height of summer can scarcely be bettered as a family day out in the North-East of England. A leisurely perambulation of the Historical Circuit Walk is just the ticket to wile away a couple of lazy hours.

Though the creation we see today is the result of the labours of the Hardwick Park Restoration Project of the early 21st century, the venue’s reputation as a pleasure ground goes back to at least the 1740s. For it was at this time that wealthy Tyneside businessman, John Burdon, set about transforming the estate – if only for the enjoyment of himself and that of his friends and acquaintances.

Burdon, with the help of leading architect James Paine, built the new (and present) Hardwick Hall, and grandly revamped the grounds in a ‘naturalistic’ way. Yes, there were follies and other ornamental buildings, but the artificial lake was improved and a serpentine river added – all tastefully supplemented by judiciously placed woodland. A later owner, Matthew Russell, added a number of improvements around 1800.

Within decades, though, the park lurched into decline – a process which lasted the best part of two centuries, before local efforts led to its sensational re-birth during the last decade or so. Thanks to a generous Heritage Lottery Grant, the local council were able to spearhead the project which returned the landscape to its 18th century look.

Now, of course, the vast expanse of parkland with its many and varied points of interest is open to the public, and comes complete with visitor centre and all mod-cons. The hall, on the other hand, is a luxury hotel.   

No comments:

Post a Comment