Work to restore an historic Victorian park that once housed the main water supply for Plymouth has been completed, ahead of its official reopening in June 2014.
Contractors have been working in Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir for five months, restoring the early 19th century reservoir and replanting the adjacent gardens.
There will now be a period of ‘bedding in’ before the area is opened to the public and becomes the setting for a lively programme of public events and activities – from craft fairs and community days to trails and workshops – providing opportunities for learning, volunteering and celebrating as well as relaxation.
The restoration work, which began in December 2013, has been led by Cornwall Environmental Consultants Ltd and principal contractor Ryearch, in partnership with Le Page Architects, Hydrock Engineers and Randall Simmonds Quantity Surveyors.
Win Scutt, Drake’s Place Community Engagement Officer at Plymouth University, said: “The restoration of Drake’s Place has always been an ambitious project, but the end result is truly stunning. All the contractors have embraced our vision to reinstate the area as a place for the whole community to enjoy. Their attention to detail and appreciation of the cultural and historical significance of the gardens and reservoir have created a setting that will breathe new life into the centre of Plymouth.”
The story of Drake’s Place stretches back to 1592, when Sir Francis Drake oversaw the construction of a 28km channel that brought water from Dartmoor to the townspeople of Plymouth. The reservoir dates back to the 1820s, while the gardens were laid out with a beautiful cascade and stream in 1891 on the site of Drake’s mills Plymouth University was in 2012 awarded £601,600, from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund (BIG), to restore the gardens and reservoir. The lottery money was awarded from the Parks for People programme following a two-stage bid process, which saw the University as leaseholder working closely with the local community on proposals.
As part of the £1.4million project, a new entrance and level access from North Hill to the reservoir area has been created, and the fountains in the reservoir reinstated along with the cascade and stream which run through the gardens. Listed features, such as the watch house, have been restored, and the gardens replanted according to the original 1910 design by Cornish plantsmen Treseder. Extra seating and improved lighting has also been provided.
Birgit Hontzsch, Principal Landscape Architect at Cornwall Environmental Consultants and Lead Consultant on the scheme, said: “This is a very exciting high profile project due to its important history and central location in a highly urbanised area in Plymouth, which is reflected in the support given to the scheme by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund. We are now looking forward to seeing the fountains and cascade being operational once more within the newly landscaped gardens.”