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Last week a big step in the progress of the Attingham Re-discovered Goes Through the Roof Project occurred; we appointed a building contractor! Finding a company to build the new secondary roof over the Picture Gallery has been an ongoing process. Tenders were submitted and then reviewed, companies interviewed and then interviewed again to make sure we got it just right. With a big project like this you have to make sure you get the right people in the right place and at the right time.

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Some of the high level plasterwork around the top of the Picture Gallery.

The process of selection of the current project team can make us think about how Thomas 2nd Lord Berwick went about choosing the people he worked with to enable the creation of the Picture Gallery in the early 1800s. The architects we have used for the project in the 21st century have a connection with the property already, having carried out Quinquennial (five yearly) surveys on the mansion before.  Lord Berwick had also worked with the architect of the Picture Gallery before it was built in 1805-07. He had drafted John Nash in to design the villa at Cronkhill on the Attingham estate by at least 1802, so Nash already had a working connection with the Berwicks.

Facing Cronkhill

The Picturesque villa at Cronkhill designed by John Nash c1802.

We aren’t sure how Lord Berwick came to commission Nash but it may have been through the landscape gardener Humphry Repton (1752-1818) who remodelled the park here at Attingham in 1797. Both practitioners of the Picturesque aesthetic movement, Repton and Nash had a business partnership up until around 1800.  The already well-established landscape man Repton would recommend Nash to his clients for any building work they wanted doing for a commission fee from the architect.  It could be that Repton recommended Nash to Lord Berwick and Berwick then commissioned Nash, firstly to design the Picturesque villa at Cronkhill and then the Picture Gallery at the heart of the Mansion.

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Thomas 2nd Lord Berwick (1770- 1832), who commissioned the Picture Gallery.

It could also be that Nash’s reputation as an architect for designing and remodelling country houses went before him. Nash had an interesting career, varying from the failure of his first speculative building which led to his bankruptcy in 1783, to the heights of his profession as unofficial architect to the Prince Regent, apparently in “great favour” by 1813. At the time that he was working at Attingham, Nash’s speciality was in country houses rather than the large-scale urban and royal projects he would later be renowned for, such as Regent’s Park and Regent Street (planned 1811) and Brighton Pavilion (1815-23). Together Nash and Repton had built up a good reputation for their work such as Southgate Grove, Middlesex 1797, Luscombe Castle, Devon c1800, and Casina in Dulwich, 1797. Nash was becoming one of the most fashionable architects of country houses and he became adept at giving his customers exactly the designs they wanted for the exciting Regency age. Find out more from our Curator Sarah Kay and her talk on the two creators of the Picture Gallery, John Nash and Thomas 2nd Lord Berwick, by viewing our You Tube channel here.

Through archival evidence we know something about the men that Nash and Lord Berwick used as their ‘contractors’. The craftsmen who physically built the Picture Gallery and provided the materials left bills and receipts now in the Attingham archives as clues to the creation of this Regency space. Their work however needs a blog post all to itself!

One of the bills from our archives which tell the story of the construction of the Picture Gallery.

One of the bills from our archives which tells the story of the construction of the Picture Gallery.

Our architects have been working on a solution to the flawed design of John Nash, and the selection of contractors is the next step in assembling the team who will implement these plans. In the next few weeks a schedule of works will be finalised, and the work to install the secondary protective new roof can start.

The latest image of how our new roof will look.

The latest image of how our new roof will protect the Regency John Nash roof below.

Come and see what we have been doing so far and find out more about the plans the contractors will be implementing. The Mansion opening times can be found here and our lovely volunteer Roof Guides are based in the Picture Gallery to tell you more about this fascinating project. We’d love to see you there!

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