Combined with £950,000 already invested by the County Council as part of its wider transformation of Hampshire country parks, Staunton’s restoration will focus on the historic parkland to the north of the farm attraction.
Councillor Andrew Gibson, Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, said: “We are absolutely delighted that the National Lottery funding will help restore our beautiful park to its former glory. The landscape was shaped by Second baronet Sir George Staunton who had strong links with China following his first visit there at the age of ten. The Park is partly modelled on the former Chinese Imperial Park at Jehol, the Regency-era parkland has been relatively overlooked by visitors, with its historic follies, Chinese Bridge and links to the introduction of Earl Grey Tea to England.
“Together with our major investment, this project represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalise the country park ahead of Staunton’s Bicentenary in 2019. Volunteers, local people and students will be placed at the heart of the park, with improved access and new facilities for its 300,000 a year visitors – also providing a welcome boost to the local economy.”
Work is due to start in 2018, which will include the restoration of the Grade II* registered landscape, conservation of historic follies and Chinese Bridge, transformation of the Victorian Coach House into a visitor centre and café, and a venue for on-site vocational training, with partners such as the Beacon Community Partnership.
On behalf of HLF and Big Lottery Fund, HLF’s Chief Executive, Ros Kerslake said: “It’s difficult to overstate the importance of our public parks. Vital to our well-being and essential to biodiversity, they are highly valued spaces enjoyed daily by people from all walks of life. Staunton Country Park is one of the latest parks to benefit from over £900 million of National Lottery funding, which over the last twenty years has played a crucial role in revitalising more than 800 parks across the UK.”
Local people can also get involved in the project, with hands-on activities such as vegetation clearance and gardening, as well as volunteering in the visitor centre and researching the park’s fascinating history. A new Friends of Staunton group will also soon be launched. To get involved email: email@example.com.
Picture caption: Spades are ready for landscaping work to begin for staff and members of the on-site Beacon Community Partnership, which helps improve life and work chances for people with learning difficulties and disabilities. Photo taken by Levi Baldwin, Beacon Community Partnership Team Leader.
History of Staunton Country Park
The park was originally purchased in 1802 and developed by William Garrett, before it was bought by Sir George Thomas Staunton MP in 1819 - whose father Sir George Leonard Staunton is said to have introduced Earl Grey tea to England from China. The grounds reflect the second baronet’s Chinese and botanical interests as well as the Regency era.
Following Staunton’s death, William Stone MP purchased the Estate in 1861, demolishing the large Regency house and replacing it with a Gothic style mansion overlooking the lake.
The Estate then passed to the Fitzwygram family where it remained until after World War II when Portsmouth City Council purchased it to build Leigh Park housing estate – one the largest housing estates in Europe.
In 1959 the city council demolished Stone’s Gothic mansion due to high maintenance costs, but retained much of the present gardens and parkland as public open space. It became a country park in 1987, with Hampshire County Council managing it since the 1990s.