Blenheim Palace has received a grant of more than half a million pounds from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund for preservation work on the 18th-century Grand Bridge.
The £547,200 grant, which was announced on Friday, 9th October is part of a Heritage Stimulus Fund administered at arm's length by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Both funds are part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund which is designed to secure the future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues with emergency grants and loans.
The grant will be used to repair, and waterproof the deck of the bridge, preventing further damage to the underlying structure of our 18th-century bridge, which was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, and forms part of an internationally-renowned vista at a UNESCO World Heritage Site described as the ‘finest view in England’.
“We, like so many other heritage sites across the UK and throughout the world, have seen our income devastated by the effects of the pandemic,” said Blenheim’s Chief Operating Officer, Roger File.
“For Blenheim Palace to continue to operate, we need to spend approximately £4m each year for the next decade on a series of crucial restoration and conservation projects.
“This grant represents roughly half of the cost of the first in a 12-phase programme to help ensure the long-term survival of this magnificent bridge, which forms the centrepiece of the Grade 1 listed landscape.
“It will allow us to replace the deck of the iconic bridge, carry out essential drainage works, roadway repairs, and install a waterproof membrane to prevent water percolating through the stonework; as well as providing for a footpath separating traffic and visitors,” he added.
It’s hoped the work will also provide a fascinating insight into the bridge’s heritage. Early test investigations have revealed paved sections and older, cobbled areas.
The Grand Bridge has several internal rooms, some with extant chimneys, as well as some evidence of historic cornice and plasterwork all of which demonstrate that the bridge was once intended to be habitable.
Blenheim Palace is one of 445 heritage organisations across the country which will share £103 million to help restart vital reconstruction work and maintenance on cherished heritage sites, keeping venues open and supporting those working in the sector.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “As a nation, it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past.
“This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounceback post COVID.” he added.