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Rescue For 300-year-old North Yorkshire Ionic Temple

The Ionic Temple at Duncombe Park_Credit Duncombe Park

7:41am 14th August 2013

£200,000 has been raised to restore the crumbling Grade I-listed Ionic Temple at Duncombe Park in the North York Moors National Park.

The temple, which lies at the eastern end of a grass terrace in the Grade I- registered park and garden in Helmsley, has been on English Heritage’s register of buildings at risk since 1985.

Water is seeping in between the temple’s layers of soft sandstone causing extensive erosion to the columns and the decorative cornice.

English Heritage has given £120,650 to the rescue fund and four other organisations have also made important contributions: the Country Houses Foundation (£50,000), the North York Moors National Park Authority (£10,000), the CLEARY Fund (£3,000) and the Yorkshire Gardens Trust (£1,000). The Helmsley Estate will fund the balance of the cost of the works.

Duncombe Park house was built about 1713 to the designs of William Wakefield although a number of alterations have taken place since, principally during the 19th Century, when the north and south pavilions wings were added in 1846, and when the main house was rebuilt after a fire in 1879. The Ionic Temple is attributed to Sir John Vanbrugh, an architect best known for his designs at Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace, a friend of William Wakefield, and possibly his adviser on the general layout of Duncombe Park.

After sixty years of occupation by a school, the house and garden were restored by Lord and Lady Feversham as a family home in 1985.

The Grade I-listed mansion is set within 30 acres of landscaped garden with temples and sweeping terraces in a 300-acre park.

Last year consolidation works were completed on the Grade II-listed Nelson Gates at Duncombe Park. The gates, which have now been taken off the at-risk register, are thought to be one of the earliest war memorials to Admiral Lord Nelson.

One remaining temple is on the at-risk register - the Tuscan Temple opposite the Ionic Temple at the western end of the grass terrace.

The Estate is applying to Natural England for funding through a Higher Level Stewardship agreement which would include the whole Grade I-registered park and garden at Duncombe Park, the temples, and the medieval deer park.

The Ionic and Tuscan temples at Rievaulx were designed to mirror the temples at Duncombe Park. There is evidence to suggest that there was an aborted plan to connect the two terraces via a bridge for visiting guests in their carriages. Thomas Duncombe II wanted to complement, and perhaps even surpass, the more formal terrace and temples laid out around 1720 by his father at Duncombe Park a mile away. It is thought that he may have planned to join the two terraces by a scenic drive along the River Rye.

The Ionic Temple can be seen clearly from Helmsley’s cricket field in Baxton’s Sprunt to the north of the town. For visitors wishing to get a closer look, the gardens are open to the public from Sunday to Friday until Friday 30 August 2013, while the park remains open until 24th December.

Restoration work starts late summer.

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