Dubbed the finest view in England by Sir Winston Churchill’s father, the vista across the lake, which takes in the Vanbrugh-designed Grand Bridge and 18th century Baroque Palace, is under serious threat of disappearing.
Decades of silt have meant both the Queen’s Pool and the main lake have become so shallow that they are at risk of drying out completely. The Grand Bridge, which spans the lakes, is now 300 years old and also in need of repair, which will be carried out at the same time. Now we have enlisted the help of a team of environmental consultants and civil engineers to help save the view.
Initial work this autumn will see special syphons and groundwater wells being installed, dams constructed across part of the lake, and the water level dropped by up to two metres. This will enable the team to inspect the foundations of the bridge and assess how they will react to being unsupported by water.
Roy Cox, Blenheim's Head of Estates, said:
“The dredging of Queen’s Pool and the repairs to the Grand Bridge are not only our greatest challenge to date but also mark some of the most ambitious stonework and dredging projects ever attempted in the UK.
However, without this radical intervention, this internationally-renowned view would be lost forever.
After four years of planning it is great to see the first phase of the project begin. If all goes according to schedule this initial investigation will enable us to draw up detailed plans for the main work, which is likely to begin towards the end of next year and continue into 2020."
As well as restoring the lakes to their original 18th-century condition, the works will also reveal areas of the Grand Bridge which have been underwater since they were flooded by Capability Brown. These 'lost' rooms within the bridge will become temporarily accessible again and many archaeological features – including the original layout of a canal system which pre-dated the bridge – will also be uncovered for the first time in centuries.
The dredging is part of a far-reaching report outlining our World Heritage Site management plan over the next decade. The document lays out a clear vision for the sustainable future of the World Heritage Site at Blenheim Palace and incorporates key aspects of the management, maintenance and running of the Estate.
Follow the progress below