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Purcell Miller Tritton completes second Stowe House stage

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Purcell Miller Tritton has just completed the £8.26 million second phase of restoration of 18th century Stowe House in Buckinghamshire, which was on the 2002 World Monuments Fund list of the 100 most endangered sites worldwide.

Work has focused on the South Portico and steps, the central pavilion roofs and the most spectacular interior - the Marble Saloon. It follows on the £5.8 million first phase of the project, which restored the North Front and Colonnades.

The South Front, with its monumental portico of six Corinthian columns, is adapted from a 1770-71 design by Robert Adam. The Neo-Classical Marble Saloon of 1775-88 is attributed to Giovanni Battista Borra, and is presumably inspired by the Pantheon, though its skylit coffered dome is elliptical. The dome's plasterwork and the scagliola of the columns have all been renewed.

Restoration had to proceed without interrupting Stowe's daily life as a public school, with an elaborate temporary roof protecting the occupants of the two-dozen study bedrooms at the top of the building. But Stowe is also open to the public, and the latest work aims to make it more visitor-friendly, with a new interpretation centre inside the building.

This second phase was largely financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with additional grants from English Heritage and the Robert Wilson Challenge. Four more phases are envisaged, with the library (originally a ballroom) the next priority.

Meanwhile, Inskip Jenkins continues to restore the garden buildings in the grounds of Stowe (now managed by the National Trust), which are the source of its international fame.

by Andrew Mead

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