Phase One: THE HISTORIC HOME
October 2009 – March 2010:
The hotel was closed and listed building consent was obtained to restore the eastern end of Farringford, converting it from a hotel back to the home of Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
2010: A series of applications were submitted to restore the western end of the house, for the same purpose.
January 2011 – August 2012:
The building was stripped back to assess all architectural and decorative elements, enabling us to draw up the tender document for a programme of works.
Exciting discoveries made during this time include:
- Vivid blue wallpaper in the old Reception Room (now the Blue Room), with newspaper dating from 1856 used as lining paper. This tells us that the wallpaper dates from Tennyson’s ownership of Farringford.
- An attic skylight window leading to the site of Tennyson’s viewing platform on the roof.
- The inbuilt bookshelves in Alfred’s attic study, where he wrote one of his most famous poems, Maud.
- Wallpaper designed by the children’s author Kate Greenaway, a friend of the family, for Hallam and Lionel Tennyson’s attic nursery.
- The original placement of various doors, which had been obscured by hotel-era modifications to the house’s internal structure.
- The fact that the Drawing Room once had a fireplace in an alcove that now houses a floor-to-ceiling bookcase.
November 2012 – December 2014:
Having been awarded the contract in October 2012, Isle of Wight building company J.R. Buckett & Sons began work on the house. They overhauled all external and internal structural elements from the upper floors down, including electrical wiring, the heating system, the removal of hotel fixtures and fittings, and the restoration of original features such as Gothic-style shutters and doors.
The large water tank that was placed on the roof by Thomas Cook in 1946 was removed, prior to the roof being repaired with new timbers and cladding. Tennyson’s viewing platform on the roof was also reconstructed. It was discovered that bay windows inserted into the attic in the 1870s at the behest of Emily Tennyson had caused massive structural weakness to the roof, with supporting beams eventually pushing through the external brick walls.
Where possible, authentic techniques were used to recreate the structure and look of the original house, including lath and plaster in all the rooms. In some rooms, we were able to preserve a significant amount of the original laths.
As the building became structurally sound, attention moved to reconstructing decorative details in each room, including intricate plaster cornices and authentic 19th-century wallpaper patterns. On occasion, the original colour and/or design of a wallpaper was retained, where original traces of paper were uncovered. Notable examples include the Blue Room and the School Room, in both of which you will see surviving samples of the original wallpaper on display.
To learn more about the restoration process in detail, please see our blog.
Phase Two: THE HOUSE FOR VISITORS
An application was submitted for the next phase of building work to create offices and three apartments in the house. A request was also made to remove the 1960s extension from the back of what was the hotel dining room, returning the room to its original size and shape as Tennyson’s Music Room. This space is intended for exhibitions, educational activities and evening events when the house opens.
2014 – May 2016:
The application was accepted and restoration work was carried out over 18 months.
The house was furnished in a mid-to-late Victorian style, reflecting the tastes and interests of both the Tennysons and Farringford’s present owner, Rebecca FitzGerald. The apartments for holidaymakers, based in the house, were decorated in a more modern fashion.
Phase Three: GROUNDS AND GARDENS
Eighteen self-catering ‘Emily’ bungalows were removed from the area that originally comprised Tennyson’s walled kitchen garden. The 19th-century wall was repaired and the original path network was reconstructed.
Elsewhere in the grounds, the swimming pool and golf course were removed in preparation for returning the area to grazed parkland, which it was in Tennyson’s time.
Using Helen Allingham’s watercolours and Emily Tennyson’s descriptive journal entries as a guide, we have now begun planting the walled garden, which will be fully established in future years. Two 4m wide mixed borders, primarily planted with flowers, will flank either side of a long path. Although the layout is quite formal, the planting will soften the path edges so that over time a wild self-seeded effect will be created, in keeping with Tennyson’s description of the garden as “careless-order’d”. Fruit and vegetables are also being grown here, in keeping with the use of the kitchen garden to provide food for the household.
In autumn/winter 2017 and 2018 the second stage of planting will begin, with bulbs, shrubs and larger trees being added to the garden.