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  1. Introduction
  2. |
  3. The Friends and The Water Gardens
  4. |
  5. Photos
  6. |
  7. Restoration Videos
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Chair’s Welcome

I am delighted as Chair of the Friends to welcome you to our website. Bushy Park and Home Park are two wonderful large green oases in the south west corner of London. Feeling wild, they are natural places with ancient histories, fascinating heritage and superb wildlife. Both are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) containing rare species. These are places to be enjoyed and conserved. Which is why the Friends exist, campaigning, supporting and protecting the parks, and enhancing visitors’ enjoyment with information, advice and guidance.

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The Friends and the Water Gardens

Article by Pieter Morpurgo, President of The Friends of Bushy & Home Parks describing the background to the Water Gardens restoration.

Some twenty years before the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks were founded an article appeared in the Admiralty Research Laboratory staff magazine with an intriguing title “A Description of the Course of the Upper Lodge Ponds”. Nothing much happened for a few years until the Friends formed in 1990 and soon after made contact with Peter Foster, the writer of the article in 1968.

They had become interested in this otherwise unknown concept of a Water Garden in Bushy Park created in the eighteenth century by the owner of Upper Lodge, the Earl of Halifax. In 1994 Kathy White, then chair of The Friends of Bushy and Home Parks, wrote a short report on the findings after a first preliminary visit, and after the Ministry of Defence relinquished its lease of Upper Lodge back to the Crown Estate the following year, the Friends stepped up pressure to begin the restoration of the Water Gardens.

Following research work into the origin of the Water Gardens; maps and plans identified from the Public Record Office and other sources, a publication “A Hidden Heritage” was written as a first step to raise awareness of the existence of the Water Gardens, and to raise funds for a possible restoration. At this stage there was little evidence that anything important existed on the site, having been left to nature for many years.

Sir Roy Strong read the report and contact was made with other organisations who gave their support to the project. The Prince of Wales expressed an interest. The following year in 1996 the President of the Garden History Society, Mavis Batey OBE, discussed “A Hidden Heritage” with members. One of the members, Jane Crawley recognised the Switzer engraving on the front cover as identical to a painting by Jacob Bogdani in a recent exhibition of his work. The distinguished curator of the exhibition, Dr Miklos Rajnai, was contacted and visited the Water Gardens.

Throughout his studies of Bogdani paintings, he had tried to find evidence that his landscapes were based on reality. He had never found any evidence before he saw the Water Gardens. He was so excited that when he could eventually speak he said ” This is the day when all my Christmases have come together”.

Following this confirmation that the Water Gardens were truly important, the Friends intensified the publicity with the aim of applying to the National Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant to produce a master plan for the restoration. Many meetings with HLF and the Crown Estates followed and the Prince of Wales had talked to the Crown Commissioner asking to be kept informed of developments. A steering committee from the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks and others formed The Water Gardens Trust as a charity in May 1997. The following month the trust received the grant from the HLF.

Christopher Currie, an archaeologist, Land Use Consultants and water engineers were all commissioned, and the Restoration Master Plan was completed by October. Planning permission was granted to the Trust for the restoration and introduction for the first time for public access to the Water Gardens. Sir Roy Strong, who had supported the restoration plans from the start, had received a promotional document from Kathy White. At the time, he was researching the Royal Collection catalogue and also recognised the Switzer drawing from the front of the document as being the same as one of the Royal Collection paintings “Figures in a Garden”. At the time the painting was in a dusty storeroom at Hampton Court Palace. The painting was restored and hung in the new conservation studio at Windsor in time for its opening by the Queen. The painting now hangs on public view at Hampton Court Palace.

Water trials and archaeology were carried out. Public interest grew with the publication of a four page article in the Country Life millennium issue, and the publication of the archaeological results in an article by Chris Currie in the prestigious journal “Post Medieval Archaeology”. After the Heritage Lottery Fund had awarded The Royal Parks funding for restoration measures in Bushy Park, an exhibition on the history and restoration of The Water Gardens, organised by the Friends in conjunction with the Royal Parks, was held at The Twickenham Museum, attracting almost five thousand people.

The restoration of the Water Gardens is now complete. The Friends of Bushy and Home Parks continue to keep watch over the Water Gardens and the nearby Brewhouse. The restoration started as a dream in 1990. It is now fully restored and regarded as one of the most important eighteenth century Baroque Water Gardens in the country.

Pieter Morpurgo

Why we need more Friends

With more members our voice is stronger when we campaign to protect the Parks, and with more subscription income we can do more to provide information and education about the Parks, their wildlife and their history.

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Walks & Talks

Forthcoming event

Latest report

On Saturday 8 June 2019 from 11am to 3pm members of the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks will be at the SHAEF memorial (near SHAEF Gate) and at Teddington Gate to help you envisage the scene 75 years ago when General Dwight D Eisenhower and his staff in Bushy Park were planning the campaign to liberate occupied Europe.

Full report...

Visitor Centre

The Visitor Centre next to the Pheasantry café is where our volunteers help visitors find out more about the parks and where visitors can purchase souvenirs of your visit to support our work.

Click this panel to visit our Visitor Centre section and also to find out how you can get involved as a volunteer.