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Stoneleigh Abbey River Landscape Warwickshire

Gill, Jonathan (2013) Stoneleigh Abbey River Landscape Warwickshire. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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Stoneleigh Abbey is a site with a wealth of heritage interest from its history as an early
Cistercian monastery converted to a country house in the post-medieval period, to its
architectural significance and its collection of nationally important buildings. Among the
key interests however is its magnificent landscape which is particularly associated with the
great landscape gardener Humphry Repton who established a design framework for the
grounds in the early 19th century and much of his proposals were either implemented
directly under his control or subsequently by others using his ideas. The gardens were also
enhanced in the mid 19th century by another eminent landscape designer, WA Nesfield and in
the 20th century by Percy Cane.
One of the central focuses of Repton's proposals was the area to the south of the house and
particularly the river landscape as the Avon passes the Abbey. The previous meandering
streams and narrow channels were replaced by a larger lake for boating and to provide a
reflection of the house when viewed from the woodland to the south.
In the 20th century this river landscape suffered extensively through lack of maintenance
leading to catastrophic failure of key structures and in recent decades it has become a pale
shadow of its historic form.
A major project to restore this element of the landscape has recently been undertaken with
the conservation or reconstruction of a number of features or structures which together form
this centrepeice of Repton's landscape. These structures have included the West Park Weir,
the Island Weir, the Gazebo Bridge and the Abbey Mill Bridge
The collapsing (or partially collapsed) condition of some of these structures meant that it
was necessary for many areas to be extensively rebuilt, using stonework to match the
original, rather than merely being conserved with a light touch. This is particularly due to
the tremendous force of the river that they will have to withstand and the fact that they will
be functional structures, acting exactly as they did in the 19th century. The work has not just
conserved the individual structures but also the landscape and the setting for the abbey
A programme of archaeological recording has been undertaken during the conservation
work and this has enhanced our understanding of these features. The work at the West Park
Weir has helped us to understand the evolution of this structure, which existed in 1749 but
which appears to have had many phases of rebuilding including the construction of a long
retaining wall dating from 1883. Similarly to the West Park Weir the Island Weir also
included very high quality masons work in the fine-jointed dam and spillway and the work
has revealed a large lower spillway which may pre-date the main weir structure. The Island
Weir is thought to date from Repton's period (or immediately after it) and to be
contemporary with the original part of the Gazebo Bridge and sluice. The work here has
revealed evidence to suggest that there was formerly a large platform across the rear of the
structure together with former grilles and previous sluice gates. This platform appears to
have been a secondary addition of possibly mid 19th-century date and it appears to have
been removed between 1887 and 1905.

Item Type: Client Report
Subjects: Period > UK Periods > Modern 1901 - present
Period > UK Periods > Post Medieval 1540 - 1901 AD
Geographical Areas > English Counties > Warwickshire
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology South > Buildings
Depositing User: Scott
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2022 10:42
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2022 10:42
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/6945

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