Lottery Funded Landscape Restoration to Start at Russell Gardens & Kearsney Abbey

Dover District Local Plan

A £1.4 million programme of landscape restoration as part of the Heritage Lottery funded Kearsney Parks project gets underway in March.  The contract for the landscape restoration has been awarded to idverde UK Ltd following a competitive tender.  Idverde has a strong track record of heritage parks restoration, including Wrest Park in Bedfordshire owned by English Heritage.  The company is working with the charity, Family Action, on a garden for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

A key part of the works is the restoration of Thomas Mawson’s terraced landscape at Russell Gardens.  Thomas Mawson (1861-1933) was one of the most influential landscape architects of the Edwardian era, and Russell Gardens is a rare example of his work in the south east.  Russell Gardens is Grade II listed on Historic England’s Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England.

A key feature of Mawson’s design is a series of formal terraces framing Kearsney Court – once the home of Wiggins Teape paper mill owner, Edward Barlow.  It was Barlow who commissioned Mawson in c.1900.  The terracing leads down to the croquet lawns, a lily pond, and a 170m long canal pond with a boathouse and two Palladian-style pergola bridges.  A summer house will also provide new toilets in Russell Gardens.

Landscape works in neighbouring Kearsney Abbey will see the recreation of an eye-catcher bridge across the ornamental lake.  Meanwhile, restoration of the Grade II listed former billiards room – the only part of the original mansion house still standing – is well underway, along with construction of a 180m² new build café extension by Coombs (Canterbury) Ltd.

Cllr Trevor Bartlett, Cabinet Member for Corporate Property, said: “We’re excited to be starting work on restoring the fabulous landscape in Russell Gardens.  Once complete, we expect Russell Gardens to become a major tourist attraction, offering free public access to one of the finest examples of the iconic work of Thomas Mawson.

“We’re also investing to improve the visitor experience across the parks, including an enlarged café, more parking, improved pathways, signage and interpretation, and new education programmes to support outdoor learning.”

Alistair Bayford, Operations Director for idverde, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this prestigious contract for Dover District Council, which extends our experience and track record delivering Heritage Lottery Funded projects, having delivered over 30 projects since the inception of the funding scheme.

“The opportunity to work within the historic fabric of Kearsney Abbey and the nationally important Russell Gardens allows us to apply our wealth of experience in restoring, conserving and enhancing parks for the communities they serve.  We are looking forward to working with representatives from Dover District Council, the design team and the local community over the coming months.”

Key areas of improvement

  • Restoration of Thomas Mawson’s landscape in Russell Gardens
  • Construction of an eye-catcher bridge in Kearsney Abbey
  • New pathways, natural wood play area, and café terracing


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