Latest Restoration Project

restoration project at Painshill

Replacing the Woollett Bridge

Our 40th anniversary appeal

We urgently need to replace the Woollett Bridge to keep the circular route open and protect this beautiful view. Please help by donating today.

historical image of Painshill

History of the Bridge

The Woollett Bridge, as it is now known, sits on the west side of Grotto Island, and is shown in an engraving by William Woollett in 1760 (Woollett was named as the most famous British engraver of his day by the British Museum). The bridge forms part of the historic route, a circular walk with a series of scenes, continually changing and mystifying. It is vital to the landscape as it allows visitors to leave Grotto Island and continue on towards the Mausoleum. From the bridge you can see various follies dotted around the landscape, including the Turkish Tent, and the Temple of Bacchus.

The existing bridge is based on a bridge design by Italian architect Andrea Palladio, in his book Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture (Hamilton subscribed to Isaac Ware’s 1738 edition of Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture, which was clearly a source of ideas to him). Whilst there was no bridge evident when restoration began, the brick foundations were discernible and were restored so that the re-created bridge could stand in the same place.  

Woollett Bridge restoration

Why does the Bridge need replacing?

You may remember that in December 2019 and again in February 2020 Painshill flooded. The bridge, made of softwood timber, was under water for about two weeks. Despite forty degree heat over the summer the wood did not dry out properly and is now rotting.

The bridge is being regularly monitored to check for movement and to assess the bridge’s stability. Changes are being photographed and documented. It is not practical to fully repair the bridge, however, we have installed columns under the cross beams, which are resting on the lake bed to support the bridge. These are a temporary measure, which ensure that the bridge is safe to walk on while we raise money for a replacement.  

If the bridge were to collapse before we are able to replace it, we would need to pay for a pontoon to enable visitors to leave Grotto Island and continue on the historic route. Not only would this be unsightly, it would quickly become very costly.

You can donate today to help replace the Bridge

Painshill Park Trust is raising money to replace the bridge, so that the historic route is maintained for visitors to enjoy year round. We will have discussions around what style the bridge will be, and whether the existing bridge style is the most authentic one for the replacement. We will make a decision based on evidence available and archives of paintings and engravings and using information from our Landscapes and Restoration Committee. Painshill’s restoration has been as a result of painstaking restoration over the last 40 years. As Hamilton left no diaries or estate papers, every detail found through research has added to the Painshill story. For example, whilst the Woollett engraving shows the design that the existing bridge has been based on, other paintings show the bridge as a curve, however, this may be as a result of artistic licence, rather than fact. We know that Hamilton was at Painshill for 35 years. During this time he may have had several bridges as they may have needed replacing during that period. As fashions and styles change, it is possible that the design of the bridge may also have changed over time.

Once we have secured the necessary funding, we will commission a contractor to build and install the bridge. We expect the work to take approximately six months, subject to weather and planning processes. We are hoping to raise enough money during 2021, our 40th year of restoration of Painshill, and to replace the bridge during 2022. It is estimated that it will cost £120,000-£130,000 to complete this work. Please donate today to help replace the Woollett Bridge.

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