When the site was purchased in 2004 the decades of neglect were evident everywhere. Some areas were virtually impenetrable – including the Walled Garden Court. It and the grounds immediately surrounding were full of large self sown elder and ash, rampant briars and chest high nettles and thistles. Most of the enclosing walls were smothered in ivy the penetrating roots of which had caused the collapse of various large areas of walling. The area was gradually cleared of the main tree growth and ivy during the course of 2005-2007. During this period and as part of the ground clearance works the remains of a dwarf parapet wall were discovered and it became clear that this had formed the edge of a raised terrace walk way running north to south alongside the west enclosing wall. The central steps which had provided access into this area had been removed.
The entrance front of the Towers faced west. The Towers was approached via a tree lined driveway running from Wothorpe Groves (see image gallery) through a set of entrance gates and from there on foot through an Outer court, down into the Walled Garden Court and down a further flight of stone steps into the Lower Court along a central pathway aligned with the front entrance door.
The arrangement of the Lower Court can be seen on the image in the gallery.
As a result of the significant archealogical discoveries of the seventeenth century layout found in the Lower Court it was decided following consultation with English Heritage and the Conservation and Planning Officers at Peterborough City Council to reinstate the Walled Garden Court and the Lower Court to accord with its original layout.
The conservation and preservation works to the walled garden court have included the careful repair and reinstatement of the principal walls to the west, north and south; the reinstatement of pathways; the removal of the remains of a later 19th century wall and the repair/reinstatement of the dwarf parapet wall (using the later stone from the wall which was removed – which has been used for all the wall repairs/reinstatement in this area).
Two of the four quarter planting beds each measuring 15 metres by 12.5 metres have been set out and planted using common box (buxus sempervivens): the 2 remaining beds are due to be planted up in the early Spring of 2011.
Works in the Great Garden
The Great Garden lies to the east of the Towers. The plan of 1615 shows an ornamental zig-zag water feature running through the garden from the south to the north: this feature had disappeared by the late 18th century. However, we have been able to confirm its existence with the help of a geophysical survey and subsequent archaeological investigation. Elaborate Terraces surrounded the garden.
Clearing and levelling has been carried out to the central section of the garden which lies between the rear of the Towers and the 17th century Grade I listed ornamental gateway. Two very large self sown ash trees have been removed. This has helped transform the garden area and the imposing presence of the Towers is now more evident. Pathways have been laid to create an area of garden which will have 4 large formally arranged beds planted with box hedging to designs by Sebastiano Serlio. The zig-zag water feature is in the course of being recreated and represented. Other works in this area include the dismantling and re-instatement and repair of a substantial part of the eastern stone garden boundary walling.
The overburden laid immediately around the Towers has also been carefully removed to reveal the original plinth base and sophisticated drainage system which was created when the Towers were built. Pathways in this area are in the process of being laid.