The recently aired Channel Five television programme “Build a new life in the country” featured the total restoration of the Grade II listed Menagerie by Richard Keble and Jane Kinnaird.
The derelict 18th century historic 235 year old country house in the heart of rural Warwickshire called The Menagerie, was built as a private zoo and hunting lodge for the magnificent Coombe Abbey estate nearby. Designed by architect Henry Holland, who was best known for his work on the Marine Pavilion at Brighton, Sussex which was designed for the Prince Regent, the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and the Royal Opera House. It is said that he was influenced in this design by the Menagerie at the Palace of Versailles.
The 8 acres of gardens and lake, were designed by landscape architect, Capability Brown. It is estimated that Brown was responsible for over 170 gardens surrounding the finest country houses and estates in Britain. Blenheim Palace, Kew Gardens, Warwick Castle, Harewood House, Bowood House and Milton Abbey are just a few.
This project was a huge undertaking. The property had suffered at the hands of vandals who had set many fires inside the building – one of which nearly destroyed the three story staircase. The damage caused by the natural elements was extensive and the Death Watch Beetle had moved in. All of this meant that before any renovation work could take place, half the budget had to be spent at the start of the project on major structural work. Once the roof was back on and the property made watertight then the painstaking tasks of restoring the building to its former glory really began.
Whilst tradesmen got to work in the interior of the building, contractors were brought in to clear the overgrown garden. For the first time in thirty years the lake could once again be seen and the full beauty of the building can once again be appreciated.
Jane set to work on the interior design, and mixed traditional decoration with many modern and convenient features and products. She was determined to keep the interior in keeping with the age of the building and the end result is stunning. Faithfully reproduced soft furnishing and carpets take you back to a time long gone, but the modern day comforts are all there too.