Funding kicks off Stansted Park’s bid to restore glasshouse and add visitor centre

Alan Mak MP with Park Community School headteacher Chris Anders at the Tes Awards parliamentary reception

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VITAL restoration work to a derelict Victorian glasshouse has begun, thanks to an award in funding.

The Stansted Park Foundation – which runs Stansted Park near Rowlands Castle – has secured a donation from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the first phase of its ‘Through the Glasshouse’ project.

A new visitor centre and exhibition of the renowned Ponsonby family will sit in the now-derelict glasshouse, which is one of a pair in the estate’s Walled Gardens.

The project will encourage participation from audiences of all ages, and will include workshop rooms and both formal and informal education programmes.

James Cooper, director of the Stansted Park Foundation, said: ‘We are very excited about the new facilities.

‘The project will offer visitors the chance to connect directly with Stansted’s rich heritage.

‘They will move ‘through the glasshouse’ and out into the wider estate with a greater understanding of the history and significance of the site.

‘The funding will enable the park to have a retail outlet, an information point for house tours, theatre productions, music evenings and other events.

‘Externally, the restoration of the sadly-dilapidated glasshouse will be the final transformation to the Walled Gardens.

‘The dedicated exhibition space will be open all year round and we are confident this project will really enhance the experience for our visitors for many years to come.’

The second house in the estate’s Walled Gardens was restored in 1999 and houses the Pavilion Tea Rooms.

One of the key aims of the project is to introduce Stansted’s visitors to its landscape and rich history – including its most recent owners, the Ponsonby family.

The total cost for ‘Through the Glasshouse’ is £1.4m. Stansted Park Foundation has been awarded a smaller amount to get phase one underway – work for which has begun. The park hopes to commence phase two in 2019 after a successful second application to the HLF.

In 2016, the Stansted Park Foundation secured ownership of the nationally significant Ponsonby Family Archive Collection, which brings alive the stories of one of the country’s most influential families.

Dr John Godfrey, chairman of the Sussex Heritage Trust, said: ‘More people, young and old, will be able to understand the significance of this important country house and its relationship with the landscape in which it sits.’