This past year of repeated lockdowns, although unwelcome, gave us the opportunity to work on long-planned projects, such as the mounting of an exhibition on the restoration of Farringford, which saw not only the house transformed from a crumbling 18-bedroom hotel to the historic home of Tennyson, but also the site of Fred Pontin’s holiday bungalows restored to the magnificent walled garden of today.
We knew the interest was there on account of the frequent questions, often in depth, often perceptive, on so many aspects of the restoration from visitors touring the house since we opened in 2017. It took us by surprise as much as it delighted us, as the five years taken to complete the work had in many ways been the most extraordinary nail-biting adventure, with unexpected challenges and setbacks, the shared excitement of historically significant discoveries, and the satisfaction of finding solutions to practical problems often unique to this house, engaging us by turn each day. The house certainly has an interesting story to tell, and in conversation with visitors we could only really scratch the surface, and so the idea of a restoration exhibition came about.
Invaluable Pictorial Record
One of us had had the foresight to photograph the detail of every stage of each phase of work, resulting in an invaluable pictorial record. This acted as an aide-memoir, while also providing the framework for the structure and content of the written material. But first, the photographs had to be organised into working order, and there were literally hundreds of them! The timeline was self-evident, and we found that the categories fell into place during this process so that, once done, we just needed to choose the pictures that would best illustrate a particular point or detail. Finally, the text was written up and off it went to the printers. This all sounds straight forward enough, but it was a lengthy process; the same morning that we first re-opened the garden to visitors this late spring we were hurriedly pasting the last of the exhibition boards to their mounts.
The Restoration Exhibition is housed in a separate building, formally a restaurant, and at various times in history a bistro and a billiards room. Not to be missed when visiting the gardens, the exhibition space also provides opportune shelter during inclement weather!