Marble Hill Revived: Your Questions Answered
We’ve had a very positive response from many people to our plans for Marble Hill, but we’re aware of some concerns. Here are our responses to some of the questions that have been asked:
- Marble Hill House
- Landscape and wildlife
- The café at Marble Hill
- Sports facilities
- Dog-walking and play area
- Events at Marble Hill
- Traffic and visitors
What does English Heritage hope to do at Marble Hill House and Park?
English Heritage wants to do justice to both the house and park through a series of £6m improvements, including:
- Opening Marble Hill House to the public - for free - five days a week, seven months a year, a dramatic improvement on its current limited opening hours
- Restoring a small part of one of the great historic gardens of London - re-creating the 18th-century grounds once enjoyed by the few and opening them up to all
- Improving the site as a whole, including creating a new children's play area to complement the existing baby area as well as completely refurbishing the sports facilities (with changing rooms for women) and refurbishing the current café
Why not just leave Marble Hill House and Park as it is?
Anyone visiting Marble Hill today will struggle to understand its significance, enjoy all its stories, and appreciate the historic relationship between the house and the landscape.
Across the park, the tree stock is in decline. The sports pitches are worn and there are no changing rooms for women or disabled users.
In 2016/17, it cost English Heritage more than £200,000 to run Marble Hill. As a charity, we cannot sustain that level of cost and the Marble Hill Revived project will help to reduce the overall running costs.
For all those reasons, doing nothing is not an option. The £4.08m funding from the National Lottery gives a unique opportunity to revitalize Marble Hill, to bring its stories to life, to involve more local people in it, and to invest in its long-term future.
Marble Hill House
What are your proposals for the historic house?
At present, Marble Hill House - a Georgian masterpiece - is only open by guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays in the summer. We want to open the house five days a week for seven months a year - and for free.
We also plan to install new interpretation to tell the property's fascinating stories.
And most importantly, we want to repair and conserve the exterior to preserve it for future generations.
What works will be done to outside of the House?
We will be repairing and conserving the exterior of the house to preserve it for future generations. Works will include redecoration, joinery and roof repairs.
- For more information see our Design and Access Report for the house.
Landscape and Wildlife
What are your plans for the gardens and landscape at Marble Hill?
We will restore the core of this exceptional 18th-century landscape, reinstating woodland walks, an orchard and a flower garden. The structure of this design can still be seen and archaeologists have recently uncovered details of this historic landscape, including a bowling green (also known as the Ninepin Alley).
Furthermore, the hectare of land near the house that makes up the woodland quarters will be opened up to park users. We will restore the rare wetland grassland habitat along part of the southern boundary of the park and continue to improve the meadow areas created in recent years improving biodiversity in this area. This will encourage a wider variety of insects and pollinators including butterflies and bees, creating a richer habitat for wildlife and provide opportunities for park visitors to enjoy and experience nature.
Why do you need to remove existing trees? And how many trees do you need to remove?
The project will actually increase the area of tree cover in the park by planting more than 342 trees and in doing so, reinstate the historic view from the Thames.
We are thinning the overcrowded woodland quarters, removing overcrowded saplings, poor quality trees and shrubby material. This will improve the growing conditions for selected and newly planted trees that will have space to grow to maturity to be enjoyed by future generations. The new trees and shrubs will not only restore the Georgian character of the woodland garden but will provide more nectar, berries and foliage for insects, birds and mammals.
In total, we are removing 285 trees across the park which are either dead, in a poor or declining state or are preventing younger, healthier trees from developing. The majority of trees are of poor quality or small, self-sown saplings. A large Yew and Holm Oak growing very close to Marble Hill House are being removed in order to protect and conserve the house.
How will you protect and encourage the wildlife?
We are protecting and enhancing the existing semi-natural habitats of ecological value, including the woodland and veteran trees which are features for which the park qualifies as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC). We are also enhancing over four hectares of improved biodiversity including, new wetland habitat, meadow grassland, improved woodland margins and introducing 240 metres of species rich hedgerow. These areas along with the new trees and shrub planting will provide more nectar, berries and foliage, increasing the variety of wildlife habitats and biodiversity. In order to protect and conserve the existing wildlife and habitats, all work is being carried out under the watching brief of an independent Ecologist. For example fallen and rotten deadwood habits are being retained and protected for to their valuable invertebrate habitat, this is especially important for the stag beetle.
We are at the start of an extensive tree planting programme which will see over 340 new trees planted across the park, this make a major contribution to the park’s future tree cover and make a long term contribution to locking up carbon.
People want to see butterflies, bats, thrushes and owls thriving in the park. Our new head gardener and apprentice is actively recruiting park volunteers to help us with this work to enhance the biodiversity of Marble Hill.
Where will the extra trees go? Will these trees disrupt the sport pitches?
New tree planting would only take place in areas which are not currently used for sport. The majority would be planted in the area between the house and the river.
Who will look after all these new areas and features?
The new garden and enhanced wildlife areas will create new exciting opportunities. To manage the gardens, we will employ a head gardener as well as offering a new training opportunity for an apprentice gardener. We will also recruit garden volunteers to support the on-going maintenance and improvements to the garden. Together these roles will help to retain and enhance the existing wildlife habitats while also encouraging a more diverse range of species for visitors to experience.
THE CAFÉ AT MARBLE HILL
How are you addressing residents' concerns about the café?
Our original proposal for the existing café in the Stable Block was for an extension at the rear. But many people disliked that idea so we went back to the drawing
board. Instead of extending the café, we will now keep it within the Stable Block – this approach was inspired by a proposal from the local community.
Will the café be open at night for events?
No, it won’t. The opening hours will be very similar to what they are now – the café will only open during the day and will close at 6pm.
- For more information see our Design and Access Report for the café.
What works will be happening to the sports facilities?
We want to improve the sports facilities by upgrading the pitches and playing surfaces. We would also like to upgrade the changing rooms to make them more family friendly and suitable for men, women and disabled sports users.
When will the works to the sports pitches take place?
We would hope to begin work on the sports pitches in 2019. However exact timings will depend on the outcome of the consultation process which is now taking place.
Will clubs have to move while the works are being carried out?
We will develop a phased plan, in consultation with local sports clubs, to minimise any disruption to users. Our initial planning has shown that, with a small amount of flexibility on the part of our current sports group users, it should be possible to allow all current sports groups to remain at Marble Hill throughout the works.
Will the price of the pitches go up?
Over the course of the project we anticipate that prices will increase to reflect the improved facilities which we will be providing. Any cost increases will be realistic and competitive.
- For more information please see our Design and Access Report for the sports facilities.
Dog walking and play area
Will we still be able to walk our dogs?
Are you introducing dog free areas?
During our consultations some families told us that they would like a space which is dog-free. We're hoping to add a new play area to the park which would be dog-free. And although park users will be able to enter the currently inaccessible woodland quarters, these areas will remain dog free in order to minimise the impact on wildlife.
Will you still allow professional dog walkers to use the park?
Yes, professional dog walkers will continue to be welcome. Following the changes which have been made in parks operated by the London Borough of Richmond which have reduced the number of dogs that a professional dog walker may bring into the park (from six to four), we are currently reviewing the current park rules with a view to bringing Marble Hill in line with other parks in Richmond.
What are your plans for the play area?
Our consultation identified that in general, people liked the existing fenced grassed area for babies. And they were clear that if we were to create an extra play space, they didn’t want any large play equipment in it. So we’re keeping that baby play area as it is and adding another one with low-level equipment for young children. We’ll also create a nature play trail around the perimeter of the park.
- For more information on the play area please see our Design and Access Report for the landscape.
Events at Marble Hill
Are you planning to install a marquee for weddings?
No. Wedding receptions are no longer part of our long-term plans for Marble Hill. We will not now be creating a marquee area for weddings; instead we will plant an orchard in that space.
What type of events do you plan on holding at Marble Hill?
We want to develop a new programme of small scale, family friendly events which will engage the local community and attract new generations to Marble Hill. Our desire is to move away from such large-scale events as the House Festival.
What is happening with the House Festival?
In 2018, the House Festival will move to Kenwood and will no longer be held at Marble Hill. The change in venue fits in with our desire to move away from large-scale events and focus on small scale, family friendly events.
Did the money generated from the House Festival go towards Marble Hill?
Yes, the House Festival donated £70,000 a year to English Heritage, which was ring-fenced for the Marble Hill Revived project.
Traffic and Visitors
How many extra visitors do you expect to receive from the Marble Hill Revived project?
We expect that once we open the house five days a week, 52,000 people would visit the property after the first full year - the majority of which would consist of people who already visit the park but never visit the house.
Will this mean increased traffic congestion, and will the car park be able to cope?
Our main audience is local people who already visit the park but who never visit the house itself. Given that and Marble Hill's excellent public transport links, we do not expect a major increase in traffic should we open the house and new café. Any additional traffic would be easily accommodated in the existing car-park.
- For more information see our Transport Assessment.
We would like to thank the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund
More about Marble Hill
History of Marble Hill
Read a full history of this English Palladian villa and its gardens beside the Thames, from its origins in the 1720s as a retreat from court life for Henrietta Howard to the present day.
Henrietta Howard’s Garden at Marble Hill
Find out what makes the garden between the house and the river at Marble Hill so significant, what we know about it, and how English Heritage plans to restore it.
Read more about the life of Henrietta Howard, and how she overcame personal adversity to become an extraordinary figure in Georgian court society.
The View from Richmond Hill
See how artists have depicted the panoramic view from Richmond Hill over the centuries and find out how Marble Hill was saved thanks to a campaign to preserve this view.