Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

The animal enclosure and the glasshouses were demolished this week. I’d already managed to do a wild, rapid sketch of the glasshouses from some distance away, standing outside the security fence:

These have now all gone. I’d hoped to get the chance to get closer and sketch some details, because the stone wall beneath the glass had some really interesting features. Dave Bennison from Bradford Parks gave me a conducted tour of the site, which gave me a wonderful chance to have things pointed out that otherwise I would have missed. Almost at ground level at the back of the raised flowerbed you could see long carefully dressed stones like lintels, evenly spaced in a course of regular sized stones – because the best way to grow vines in a hothouse is to plant just outside, and then train the stem through a hole in the wall so that the roots get the benefit of rainwater and drainage and the leaves and branches have warmth and protection under glass. So in order to do this, you need little holes like windows in the wall – and for that reason you need lintels. (Apparently Victorian gardeners often used to put the carcase of a dead animal into the bottom of the hole they dug at the time of planting, to fertilise the vine with blood and bone – I wondered if the skeletal remains of a cow or a horse might emerge when they dug around the footings, but Dave thought any trace would be long gone….)

Unfortunately it looks as if health and safety regulations are going to prevent me from being allowed onto the site and getting near enough to draw details like this, except occasionally under supervision. I’m going to have to sketch from behind the security hoarding and make do with what I can see through the viewing windows they’re going to cut. 

This was the animal enclosure, next to the glasshouses, already half dismantled. The flight of stone steps (which regretfully I didn’t sketch – I’m afraid there’s going to be a lot of this; thankfully there are lots of photos) and all the dressed stones have been meticulously numbered and photographed so they can eventually be put back together in their correct positions. 

I don’t know which is more fascinating – discovering things about the buildings and the history of the site, or watching the process of the work as it unfolds and the way it’s done. One of the men working there was telling me how much admiration he had for the craftsmanship of the original work, and the skill and effort that had gone into the building. It seems I’m not the only one who’s finding this a very interesting building site! 

More updates on the work, photos, plans, and background information at: https://m.facebook.com/Cliffe-Castle-Heritage-Lottery-Bid-304048249751094 and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website.  

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