News update as at 24 October
Information boards for Holland House
At last, two information boards have been installed to explain Holland House to visitors who do not know its history. The Friends applied for NICL (Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy) funding and have committed to paying the balance of the cost.
One board is under the big chestnut tree at the bottom of the terrace approach road, the other to the north of the house. We notice that many park visitors are stopping to read the information, and what better timing could there be than when the opera has finished for the season and we can, once again, see the elegance of Holland House.
[Photos by Jennie Kettlewell]
Road across the back of Holland House
The re-surfacing was completed in record time and is now a smooth finish which matches the colour of the road in front of Holland House. So much nicer than black Tarmac.
The arcade in front of the café
The ceiling under the arcade in front of the café had become a mass of wiring and lights that no longer worked. All redundant installations have been removed and the ceiling painted white. Discrete new lights have been fixed so that there is soft lighting onto the arcade’s historic tiles and onto café visitors near to the tiled wall, when the weather is dark and gloomy. The work will be finished on the west arcade once the plaster has dried.
The walkway over the café was resurfaced and made waterproof as part of the Holland House conservation work, but the scope of the work did not include the part of the walkway that runs east-west under the stables’ clock tower. The result is that rainwater is seeping through to the murals beneath. The Friends pushed for repairs and are delighted to hear that Allies & Morrison have been appointed to write the specification and get a costing for the work. They are on the case and we hope to hear shortly when work will commence. Once water ingress is stopped, we will ask Mao Wen Biao who painted the murals, to carry out the necessary restoration.
[Photo by Rhoddy Wood]
The North Lawn is now fenced off for the winter so that the grass can be improved and has time to recover before the picnic season. The Acer Walk has been blocked and we will all have to make a slight detour when walking from the Lord Holland statue to the centre of the park.
Work has started on creating smart new toilets, with an accessible entrance opposite the drinking fountain in the Café Yard. The path between the Stable Yard block and the Toddlers’ playground has been closed for the duration of the project for public safety. No one likes all this building work in the park, but we think that the result will be worth it.
Design Museum offers 10% off courses and workshops
The Museum already offers our members a 10% discount on purchases from their shop and on exhibition tickets (+1 guest) booked on-line, using code ‘HollandFriends10’. We are delighted that they are now offering our members 10% off Design Museum ‘Academy’ courses and workshops, booked on-line, using Code FOHPXDM. Please take your Friends’ membership card to a booked course. Check out the wide choice of courses and workshops on https://designmuseum.org.
Friends' Subscription Renewals and Membership Cards
Thank you again for all your support and we hope you will want to continue to help through these troublesome times when the park is more appreciated than ever, but also has had extra strains put upon it. Your membership also gives the Friends clout when negotiating with the Borough on the park’s future.
The Friends’ subscription year runs from 1 January. Some of you have already paid for 2023 and a healthy number (about 60%) pay by bank standing order on 1 January. New members who have joined since 1 September 2022, or existing members who have renewed since that date, are already covered for 2023.
To the rest of you, now is the time to pay, using the order form or online HERE, or contacting your bank. If in doubt, check with Graham Franklin 07802 761 548 or email@example.com. We would like to emphasise that it is less trouble to both you and us if you pay by standing order. If you do not yet do so we are always ready to send you a paper form, or you can download one from the website. Unfortunately this is almost the only thing we are not able to arrange for you to do on the website. The most efficient way is for you to contact your own bank yourself.
You will know that your membership card, which entitles you to discounts under our Friends & Neighbours scheme, expires on 15 March. Those who have paid their subscriptions for 2023 will receive replacement cards with their spring newsletters, which will reach them about 1 March. Please be careful opening your newsletter, as the cards can easily fall out and be lost.
We are sad to say farewell to Trevor Bowyer who has played such a valuable role in Holland Park for the Ecology Service, as one of their environmental education officers. Over many years, Trevor has helped local children to learn about the wonders of nature and you could see their delight as they ran about the Wildlife Enclosure area discovering frogs, spiders and other wee beasties. Often they went home to regale their parents and I can well remember a small child on a nature walk telling me earnestly what we would find under a stone, because he had learned about it on a school trip.
Trevor took a sabbatical this summer, to work with one of the teams in the Kensington Town Hall. At the end of the period, he was offered a long-term roll as an employee engagement officer, which he accepted. He says he will miss the park and we will miss him. We won’t be saying goodbye though, as he has been organizing visits to the park for groups of council employees, so that they are better acquainted with the many benefits the park has to offer. Thank you Trevor and see you in the park soon.
Text and photo by Jennie Kettlewell
The history of Holland House and those who lived there
The tour. The history of Holland House and the people who lived there is fascinating and no stranger to scandal. Most of you will know something about it, but you may not know all the intriguing anecdotes that you would hear if you join one of The Friends’ tours. A tour is also a chance to get a close-up view of the recent conservation work on Holland House.
The final tour of this year is on Tuesday 15th November, from 10.30am-12noon, led by Blue Badge Guide, Leila Sukiur. The cost is £10 per person. Book an online ticket here.
The book. The Friends of Holland Park commissioned Carolyn Starren, a past Local Studies Librarian for The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, to write a definitive social history of Holland House. Painstakingly researched and beautifully presented, it is available as a 64-page, soft-covered book with 39 illustrations and two family trees. Copies are available from the Holland Park reception office, or online. Cost £6, plus p&p when appropriate. Order online here.
The Belvedere Restaurant opens for business
So many people have been waiting for the treat of being able to eat in the Belvedere restaurant once again. Now you can! The new proprietors, George Bukhov-Weinstein and Ilya Demichev, are experienced restaurant owners with a successful restaurant, Wild Tavern, in Chelsea. Immediately after the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea granted them the lease, they set about discovering the history of the building and planning what they could do to link a modern, welcoming restaurant with its past. Their research paid off and planning consent was granted in August 2021. Since that time, they worked diligently with architect David Archer and their teams to return the interior to a place of beauty.
What is now the Belvedere building, the adjacent Orangery and the brick arches leading up to Roger’s Seat, were once the stables for the Holland House estate. These stables were built at a cost of £4,000 by Sir Henry Rich around 1638, as a display of status and wealth. In the early 19th century, the impressive stable block was turned into The Orangery and a summer ballroom. Both could be reached from the main house by an upper and lower walkway built in the 1840s by the 4th Baron Holland. The summer ballroom, now The Belvedere, has been a place of eating, drinking and merriment for over 200 years, entertaining many famous guests. The last private owners of the Holland House estate, the Ilchester family, sold it to the London County Council in 1952 for use as a public park, and work started on clearing the badly overgrown grounds and making use of the buildings. The park itself is Grade II listed and is now owned by RBKC, who converted the former ballroom was into a restaurant space, and who grants leases for the park’s buildings.
George Bukhov-Weinstein and Ilya Demichev have turned the interior of the Belvedere into a warm and welcoming space. It has been opened up, with a view of the kitchens to give a lively atmosphere. The walls are covered in apricot-coloured terra cotta plaster and the brick pillars revealed to show the history of the building over the ages. There is even a trace of the fire that damaged the interior in 1971.
The floor of the restaurant is polished parquet and two gas fires have been installed to add warmth on cooler days. The bar is at an island site on the ground floor, with comfortable seating areas and dining tables set around it. Diners are reminded that the restaurant is in a park by the many plants, while elegant lamps hang from the ceiling.
Achille Pinna, the executive chef, is Sardinian and, with head chef Stefano Ponzani, will offer a menu that is modern Italian and caters both for a special night out as well as affordable meals for the family. Look out for lemon and truffle chicken, meat from the grill and home-made pasta. Wines will be a specialty. George Buckhov-Weinstein said: “We are very lucky to have an opportunity to bring this amazing building back to life and open a restaurant in one of the most beautiful parks. It will be a unique and beautiful restaurant. We are also very thankful for the warm welcome that we are receiving from the local community and the council.”
The restaurant does not extend to The Orangery, whose operation is managed solely by the council for weddings and celebratory events. Nor does it extend to the lawn or terrace outside the building, which is part of the park.
Opening will be in mid-November and bookings can be made on firstname.lastname@example.org and Tel. 020 8191 1407.
A written description is nothing like as good as seeing the restaurant for yourself. Please do make a booking and judge for yourselves.
Belvedere building photos and text by Jennie Kettlewell
The role of President of The Friends of Holland Park is an important one for our charity. The Friends’ Constitution states that: “The Trustees may invite an honorary President (“the President” who shall not be an Officer or Trustee) to enhance the profile of the Friends.” We have been fortunate to have Sir Angus Stirling fulfil that role for 20 years, and he has certainly enhanced our profile. Angus told us at the end of 2021 that he was reducing his commitments and felt it was time he stepped down as president, but that he would give us time to find the right person to take over.
We have found the right person. Eric Ellul is a member of The Friends who lives locally.
He attended our 2022 AGM and introduced himself. I am glad he did, as it was clear he was very interested in the park and committed to The Friends, and I learned about his impressive career. After several more conversations, introducing Eric to Angus and the trustees, we invited him to be our new president and are delighted that he has accepted. Angus and Eric have given their own perspective in this newsletter.
We are sad to lose Angus, not only because of his unfailing wise advice, but because he has been such a delight to work with. He has not only been a wonderful president, but has starred in our art exhibition in his new career as a notable artist. Angus and his wife, Lady Morar Stirling, will keep in touch and we hope they will continue to come to our events. Please join us in thanking Angus and welcoming Eric, whose experience and wisdom will be a benefit to us all.
Jennie Kettlewell, Chairman
On 7 September, a second, and more formal event was held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Fukushima Garden. It was hosted by the Worshipful the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor David Lindsay, and the Japanese Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Mr. Hijime Hayashi. The speeches focused on the sense of healing that the garden represented for the prefecture of Fukushima. A cherry tree was kindly gifted to the garden and was planted with due ceremony. The managing director of Fukushima Minpo News presented a polished wooden bench.
Photo by Jennie Kettlewell
News Update as at 9 September
North Lawn: The lawn to the immediate north of Holland House will be closed for repairs from 27 September. When it rains it gets muddy and in hot weather it bakes to a concrete-hard surface, so it will be spiked, treated and re-seeded. With time to recover over winter, we hope the lawn will be healthier and greener for picnickers in 2023. The Acer Walk will be closed. Also starting 27 September, the road across the north of Holland House will be re-surfaced with the same finish as the road in front of Holland House. Completion date is intended as 7 October.
The Car Park: Resurfacing is needed, and the intention is to choose a permeable material so that rain water is absorbed rather than running off to where it causes problems. A new layout will allow for the larger car size than was the case when the current car park was designed. Options will be ready for consideration at the end of September, and The Friends will be consulted. We will be discussing protection of the tree roots.
Holland Park Café: The lease of the Holland Park Café is due to go out to tender this September, with the selected operator expected to be in place by April 2023. The Friends have been consulted about the content of the marketing materials. Planned re-alignment of the counter area, to enable faster service and shorter queues, will take place in early 2023.
Toilets: In our summer newsletter, we reported that the Holland Park toilets will be upgraded and will include a Changing Places facility. They will be re-sited to the east wing of the Stable Yard, with a step-free entrance opposite the drinking fountain. The provisional start date is w.c. 10 October with completion expected in mid-January 2023. Portaloos will be hired for park visitors during the works.
Sports field: The southern half of the sports field was restored to a green sward earlier this year. It’s now time for the northern half to be improved. Work will start in September and that part of the sports field will be fenced off until the new year. The field is much used and very much enjoyed so it wears out periodically and must be in tip-top condition for small footballers by spring.
The Belvedere: By the time you read this, there is a good chance that the new restaurant will be open. Go and have a look and do try out its Italian menu.
Text & photos Jennie Kettlewell
A Reflection on my Time as President
Sir Angus Stirling
It is my great privilege to have been the Hon. President of The Friends for 20 years. I succeeded Sir Peter Parker in 2002. Morar and I became familiar with Holland Park soon after we married in 1959. We have lived within easy walking distance ever since. We and our children soon appreciated that Hyde Park is not the only green reservoir for recreation: Holland Park offers something very different and special.
Why is this so? For me, it has its resonance not in wide open landscape, but in nature, trees, architecture, and an extraordinary variety of quite intimate spaces for public enjoyment. Of all these characteristics, perhaps the natural world is the most important, especially in these times of concern about city life and climate change. The wonderful, extensive and popular children’s playground close to the car park is a vital feature of the park. Indeed, the whole park was of special value for air and exercise during the two years of Covid lockdown and restriction. The beautiful Orangery near the entrance has always played a crucial part in the life of The Friends: this is where we hold our AGM; and have for many years been privileged to present in the spring an exhibition of members’ art work, organised by Gordon French and his wife Sandra. Just before Christmas this has also been the venue for a superb chamber music concert by the Tallis Chamber Choir, presented and conducted by Philip Simms.
Walk along the wooded paths, relish the many varieties of fine trees, and the coppices, spot the great variety of birds ( ignore the shrieks of the invading parakeets) . The Japanese Garden is a real masterpiece of creative authenticity, hugely popular, with its own contribution to the right scale and natural features, including enormous carp in the waters. The formal garden has a different kind of appeal. It is the scale that is important: not big and grand as in many great country house estates, but contributing its own intimacy and inviting rest and peace to visitors. The great mural of high society and fashion in Edwardian times leads on to the café, and then to the shell of Holland House itself. This is important because, although largely a ruin, the great distinction of the design is still very much present. It has been a most valuable initiative that the terrace and the walls facing the park have undergone crucial conservation work by the Borough Council. The presence of Holland Park Opera, led by Michael Volpe over many years, has proved to be a valuable supporting influence to get this work done.
I have always believed that the president has a supporting role to play, not a management one. The president is not a trustee. It has been my purpose to try and support the trustees, and in particular the chair, when this may be helpful. It is, I think, important not to become involved in the day-to-day management, but always to listen and lend weight if possible when the chairman needs it. I do not think it is any exaggeration to say here that The Friends has been managed by a truly remarkable group of people. I’d like to mention first Nicholas Hopkins. Nicholas was chairman during my first years. He was fun to work with, loves the park and was always a successful negotiator with the borough councillors, and the park staff, to secure financial and physical support for conservation. Rhoddy Wood became our membership secretary in 1996 and later the charity’s secretary. Rhoddy’s commitment to the park and all that it means is beyond any praise I can give here. Her energy and determination is everlasting. She is much loved and valued. Joy Puritz, our minutes secretary, is also synonymous with The Friends. It is impossible to imagine what we would do without Joy. Her knowledge of the history of the park, what it offers, how it has evolved over the years, is exceptional and all recorded in her minutes. Joy has also been the editor of the newsletter for many years. Graham Franklin has also devoted his great love of plants and gardens to the service of the trustees. We are very fortunate to have Silvi Spassov as our treasurer. Silvi is chairman of the major accountants Emeralds BS Ltd; perhaps it is a reflection of the great value of our park that someone of such distinction should act as our treasurer. Andy Walker has fulfilled many important roles in the longstanding time as a trustee and Nigel Brockmann is invaluable in keeping the charity on the right corporate governance path. I would like to end by expressing my very special thanks for all that Jennie Kettlewell means to me and to the park. Jennie’s knowledge of the park, in all its aspects, is deep and extensive. She has established a truly remarkable constructive relationship with every organisation and individual with whom we have dealings. This is perhaps most importantly evidenced by the genuinely positive and constructive relationship built up over recent years with the Borough Council, the staff in the gardens and visitors. Jennie’s knowledge and love of the gardens and all its wildlife is incredibly valuable to the work of The Friends. Her brochures on the park, its birds and trees, are to be treasured. We arrange to have a meeting at least every six months to discuss all the issues, and consult more regularly as necessary.
The presidency has been a truly valuable part of my life and I wish to conclude by giving my deepest thanks to all who have helped to make this possible.
Angus Stirling, August 2022
A Message from our New President
Dear Friends of Holland Park,
As a regular visitor in Holland Park, I have always been impressed by its multifaceted profile. Its greenest areas offer the opportunity of a quiet walk, the tennis and sporting facilities appeal to the most active of us, the nursery helps rejuvenate the park and other ones in the borough in springtime, the opera is a major cultural event alongside a number of other ones, the Orangery with its beautiful surroundings is the perfect place for parties, and of course its large open fields provide an attractive ground for children and team sports. The park is really used and enjoyed by many. The Friends of Holland Park are playing a very important and effective role in working with the Council to maintain and develop it as well as to preserve it.
As a matter of introduction, most of my professional career has been as a management consultant at The Boston Consulting Group. I left two years ago and am now active in boards either as a chair or as a non-executive director. In addition, I have been a trustee at The Wallace Collection for the last six years, and I am currently the acting chair of the board. Originally from France and, after several years in continental Europe and Japan, our family has been in the UK for the last eighteen years. My wife, Virginie, two of our children and I live in London, and our eldest son lives in Paris. We are passionate about outdoor activities, including trekking and sailing, and love long walks in the many and beautiful tracks around London.
When Sir Angus, Jennie and the committee of trustees offered me the opportunity to become the president, I was honoured while humbled by how much Sir Angus, the board and The Friends of Holland Park have achieved. I am delighted to be able to contribute to the important mission of the Friends of Holland Park and will do my best to serve and ensure we are collectively as effective as possible.
I am looking forward to meeting more of you in coming events.
AGM 6 April 2022
The AGM was well attended and significantly exceeded the 30 members needed to be quorate. All votes were carried.
• Minutes of the 2021 AGM were approved
• Accounts for 2021 were approved and have since been filed with the Charity Commission
• All trustees standing were re-elected: Jennie Kettlewell (Chairman), Silvi Spassov (Treasurer), Rhoddy Wood (Secretary), Nigel Brockmann (governance), Graham Franklin (member database), Sandra French (art exhibition), Nicholas Hopkins (website), Joy Puritz (editor), Andy Walker (park observer)
• Roger Foreman was re-elected as independent examiner
Andy Walker reported on achievements in 2021: completion of stage 1 of Holland House conservation, improvements to the Dry Garden started, trees planted along the north edge of the sports field and new signage for the Kyoto Garden. Rhoddy Wood reported there were 940 paid-up members at the end of 2021, fewer than pre-Covid numbers, but now starting to increase as live events recommence. Margaret Rhodes explained the newsletter delivery system, thanked those who deliver the newsletters and asked for more volunteers. Two members offered to help.
Chairman, Jennie Kettlewell, explained that, although we all appreciate the park as a wonderful safe green space to enjoy in many different ways, there are significant challenges. Since the start of the pandemic, visitor numbers have increased. It is wonderful that the park is of benefit to so many, but the consequence is compaction of soil and erosion of grass. Solutions previously used only work for a season and then need redoing, so radical solutions are needed. Radical solutions are also needed to cope with frequent drought, with occasional torrential rain which can cause significant water run-off and flooding where it has no right to be. We would like to see rain absorbed as close to where it falls as possible. Tree felling had been more drastic than anticipated and, though tree planting has started, more needs to be done.
Thanks were given to the French family for another successful art exhibition, to the trustees for their tireless work in running the charity, to Sir Angus Stirling for his wise advice and to the members for their loyalty and support, without which The Friends could not operate.
Photo Jennie Kettlewell
News update as at 17 May
Sensible plans were made some years ago for re-aligning the counter area, to enable faster service and shorter queues. The work was never done. Given the lapse in time, the Council needed to get a re-quote, which is now in and the improvements are due to take place in autumn. There is too little room behind the counter, and the till and food delivery points should be separate, as in most other cafés. It is tough for the café staff to achieve the service levels they would like to, with these difficult conditions, especially on days when it is busy. The café could be better, if it were allowed to be.
Photo by Camlin Lonsdale
The Holland Park toilets have long needed a complete overhaul. By the time you read this, tenders will have been evaluated, with the upgrade expected in September/October. The toilets will be re-sited to the east wing of the Stable Yard, with a step-free entrance opposite the drinking fountain. All fixtures and fittings will be new, with showers and quiet eco-friendly hand dryers. A new Changing Places facility will be very welcome. Portaloos will be hired for park visitors during the works. The site where the toilets used to be, will become the sports changing facility.
You will have noticed that the old Dry Garden, just inside the lower Abbotsbury Road entrance, has been re-landscaped and replanted, with splendid new benches. This has always been an area for visitors who want a quiet space in the park, and much thought has been given to making it suitable for those who are challenged by the busier parts of the park. Please respect the needs of those who use this garden for quiet appreciation of the colours, scents, sounds and textures of the new planting. The garden has been fully funded by generous private donors.
Opera shortens build time
We appreciate the efforts of Opera Holland Park to shave more time off the complex build process. Operations Manager, Alex Gooding, has managed to have some aspects of the build done concurrently, as opposed to sequentially, as in previous years. He reckoned that would save a week, always supposing they didn’t have to pause for inclement weather.
The Belvedere restaurant
The restaurant is unlikely to open before late July. This is due to diligent work to ensure the interior is fitting for the building’s history. The pillars have been stripped back to the old brick, the walls covered with terra cotta-coloured plaster and the floor artistically tiled. We hope a small group of the Friends may be able to get a preview before the opening.
Fukushima Garden 10th Anniversary
On Wednesday, the 18th of May, a lovely early summer day, the Fukushima Prefectural Association UK held a Japanese Hanami, or picnic, in the Fukushima Garden to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Garden and to express their gratitude for the support of the people of Kensington and Chelsea in the creation of the Garden. The garden had been given by the people of Fukushima as a thank you to all the people of the United Kingdom for their support after the disaster. RBKC was happy to cooperate with the organisation of this important occasion.
On this occasion, there were speeches from Mr Yoshio Mitsuyama, the Chairman of the Association, and the Worshipful the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor Gerard Hargreaves. Both highlighted the bonds of friendship between the Borough and the city of Motomiya in Fukushima Prefecture, which is home to the English Garden in Prince William’s Park. The highlight of the picnic was the formal tea ceremony in which Japanese tea was carefully prepared by experts in kimonos for the Mayor to taste. All the guests were treated to a delicious Japanese lunchbox and a taste of sake. It was a truly memorable occasion!
New Blue Badge Tours
Blue Badge guided tours of Holland Park re-start in March, but with a new twist. Due to the Opera canopy in summer and conservation works in winter, there is only one week in two years that you will be able to see the front of Holland House: the week commencing 7 March. The big old house will look splendid, as appropriate for a Grade-11-listed building, now that the stone, bricks and mortar have been conserved or replaced. Take the opportunity to see it for yourself and hear the history of the house and the families that lived in it, from our expert Blue Badge guides, Leila and Rowan. There is also a fresh version of the Sculptures, Statues and Art tour, which focuses on more northerly parts of the park. Dates and how to book can be found under Events. Numbers are limited, so book early.
The Conservation of Holland House
By Rowan Freeland
A couple of months ago, The Friends arranged for Leila, my fellow-guide, and I to meet Anna Joynt of Allies and Morrison, the architect leading the recently-completed conservation project at Holland House, who explained the works that had been done.
One of the most striking features of the south front is the balustrade on top of the loggia which incorporates fleurs-de-lys from the coat of arms of Sir Walter Cope. The old stone fleurs-de-lys had been taken down for safety reasons, and the question facing Anna and her team was whether they should be repaired and reinstated, or replaced by new-carved stones. The old stones are not all from the original 17th century construction – there are many 19th century repairs and 1950s cement insertions. Furthermore, the old stones are weak and can fracture easily, so re-assembling them on top of the loggia would need visually intrusive metal armatures to support them.
After extensive discussions with Historic England, they decided to keep the old balustrade on the West end of the loggia (the arch facing you on the left as you look at the house), which is least damaged, and painted it with a preserving “shelter coat”. The rest of the balustrade has been replaced with newly carved stone, giving modern craftsmen (at a firm in Chippenham, Wiltshire) the opportunity of using their traditional craft skills. The new stone is Ketton Stone, a type of oolitic limestone from a quarry in Rutland. It is very yellow when first quarried, but whitens as it dries and weathers. It has a particularly even grain and hardly any stratification, which means that it will weather very evenly.
The loggia was extensively repaired in the 18th and 19th centuries, using stone indents and “Roman cement”, an artificial stone invented in the 1790s, made by burning rocks containing clay and lime. The crisper details are mainly repairs from the 1950s, using stone indents and cement. There are no cracks around the old stone indents, which indicates that the building is stable, but some weathered stone has been replaced by Ketton Stone indents.
The “stone” portal on the south face of the east wing is a copy, reconstructed in the 1950s. It has been coated with a special conservation paint. The windows in the east wing have all been repaired and rotten wood replaced.
The tower has been re-roofed using slate from the Delabole quarry in Cornwall (England’s largest and oldest slate quarry), selected because it matches the colour of the previous roof most closely.
The surviving wall and basement windows have been consolidated rather than repaired, making sure that they will not be damaged by people sitting on the wall.
East front (facing the Youth Hostel)
All the brickwork has been cleaned and repointed. Compared to modern bricks, the bricks are thin and uneven, requiring thicker mortar. A brick historian advised that the original builders would have used double strike (“bird’s beak”) pointing (looking like “ > ”), because the shadow on the lower half of the pointing makes it look thinner, and the point of the “beak” helps to shed water.
The gables, rebuilt in the 1950s, are still structurally sound and were left untouched.
One of the final steps in the conservation is the writing of a detailed report, describing all the works and the materials used, a copy of which will be lodged in the Kensington borough archives.
Apart from the East front, the work had to be carried out to a strict timetable between September 2021 and February 2022, between the removal and re-erection of the canopy and other structures for the Holland Park Opera; and it is a tribute to the skills of Anna Joynt and the team of architects and builders that this very tight schedule was successfully achieved.
Rowan is one of the Blue Badge Guides who leads tours covering the history of Holland House and the Decorative Arts in the gardens around the house. Regular tours will run throughout 2022. Tour dates are listed under Events.
Photos by Jennie Kettlewell and Phil Pring, Borras.
News Update as at 28 January
You will have noticed that the lawn to the west of the Belvedere Restaurant has been fenced off, and two men from Bartletts Trees have been hard at work aerating the densely compacted soil around the trees. When tree roots are starved of oxygen, they slowly die, as was discovered when the huge Holm Oak at Kew was blown out of the ground by the great storm of October 1987. When popped back in its hole, it thrived, and we all learned that aeration of the roots benefits trees. Vertical mulching round each tree will add valuable nutrients, before idverde add a layer of topsoil and seed with grass. The area will be protected with chestnut fencing until the grass is sufficiently robust to withstand all those little feet running about in that area. A Pyracantha hedge will be planted along the north railings. The big ash has been cut back to a high monolith, as it was diseased and dangerous, and the intention is to add decorative wood sculpture around the remaining trunk.
By the time you read this, the conservation work on Holland House will be all but finished and the site will be formally handed back to the Council on 7 March. Allies & Morrison, the conservation architects, together with Borras, who carried out the work, gave a presentation to a small group of trustees of The Friends and park management. Who knew that lime mortar was so interesting? Some very clever techniques were used and much of the work, such as the balustrades, was hand-cut detail. Included in the conservation project has been the upper causeway from the house, across the top of the café to The Orangery, and also structural repairs to the old dairy to prevent further water ingress.
The historic camellia bed, all along the north side of the old Dutch Garden wall, is looking rather sparse, and new plants are needed. Records show that the bed was in a horrible tangle when the LCC took ownership of the park in 1952. It was cleared out and camellias were planted along the full length of the bed, with many old varieties. When the International Camellia Society visited in March 2018, they were so impressed with our collection that they offered to advise on what we should add in that needy bed. It should look splendid, with some modern camellias, but should also tell the story of the history of camellias in Holland Park. As a start to improving the site, a classic iron railing has been added. That is a hint not to walk on the bed and, as Kew notices say: ‘Please don’t tread on me, I’m trying to grow!’
The improvements seem to have been in the plan forever. We expected the work to be done last autumn and we have no idea why the Council has not given the okay to start. It is very badly needed, as the toilets are not of a standard expected in a Grade-II-listed park.
We have no information from the Council about why the internal improvements to the café have not gone ahead. They were planned years ago, to make operating the café more practical, and to reduce queues. The lease was due to go out for tender some years ago, but has been postponed a year at a time, making it very difficult for the current operator to make the enhancements they would like. We ask the Town Hall, please, to let us all know what is going to happen and when.
Work on the interior is being meticulously done, with respect to the history of the building. It should look beautiful and be a welcoming environment to enjoy some tasty food for a special occasion, lunch with the family, or just because you are in the park and hungry. The opening is still scheduled for summer 2022. Their new logo for the restaurant will incorporate a peacock and will be similar to this design.
Alice Laughton Joins to Head RBKC’s Ecology Service
Dr Alice Laughton brings a wealth of useful experience to Holland Park and the whole borough. Having started with a BSc in Zoology at the University of Edinburgh, she went on to gain a doctorate in Ecological Entomology (study of insects), during which she focused on the immune system of honey bees; that will be appreciated by our Holland Park bees. More academia followed, during which she studied how factors such as environmental temperature, ageing, nutrition and disease affect how animals develop their immune responses.
She became interested in the importance of communicating science in a way that engaged the public and she was Chief Scientist on a British Exploring Society expedition to the Amazon rainforest. I think we’d all like to hear more about that.
In 2017, Alice joined The Royal Parks to lead a 5-year project, which combined public engagement with habitat monitoring and conservation works. She says: ‘It was a truly collaborative project that involved working with park managers, contractors, wildlife specialists, learning partners and Friends groups.’ She introduced conservation grazing to The Green Park and created wildflower meadows, while developing public community projects, with creative interpretation to increase public awareness.
Alice’s experience and interests are good news for Holland Park as the RBKC Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) goes forward for approval. The BAP is a guide for how we will protect and support wildlife in the borough, and the resources needed to do this. It sits alongside the Green Plan and is interlinked with RBKC commitments to climate change and air quality. For the first time, the BAP will focus on the health and wellbeing benefits of access to nature. She is well aware of the increased pressure on our precious parks and the challenges of competing priorities for people and wildlife. The BAP, and associated Woodland Management Plan, will set ambitious targets for protecting, enhancing and expanding habitats for wildlife in Holland Park. That is very good news.
We look forward to getting to know Alice and seeing her get our long-awaited Woodland Management Plan up and running.
The Friends would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the Parks Police for working even harder than usual to help keep park visitors safe during the challenge of the pandemic. You are appreciated.
Should you need or wish to contact the Parks Police for any reason concerning Holland Park, please call them on 0300 365 5101.
Defibrillators in Holland Park
We have been asked to let our members know about the availability of defibrillators in Holland Park. All Parks Police vehicles are equipped with a defibrillator and there is also one in the Holland Park Police Office in the Stable Yard. If you find someone in Holland Park in need of a defibrillator (not breathing or appears to be suffering a heart attack), please call 999. This will alert the London Ambulance Service. Any call made to the London Ambulance Service concerning someone in our parks and open spaces is automatically forwarded to the Parks Police duty phone. This is to ensure the fastest possible response until an ambulance arrives.