Several months ago many of you will have shared our sadness at the demise of the Vivat Trust. Since 1981, Vivat had been restoring important historic buildings at risk, but it had recently fallen on hard times. Its affairs are now in the hands of the liquidator and Vivat's freehold buildings are for sale on the open market, while its leasehold buildings are back in the hands of their owners.
After careful consideration we have taken on a lease for The Temple at Badger in Shropshire, a Greek-revival pavilion designed by James Wyatt to adorn an extraordinary picturesque landscape. We will be returning it to its original 18th-century name - The Birdhouse. Wyatt designed The Birdhouse for estate owner Isaac Hawkins Browne of Badger Hall, a wealthy Midlands industrialist inspired by his travels on the Grand Tour. Around 1780, Browne called in landscape designer William Emes, a pupil of Capability Brown, to enhance the natural qualities of The Dingle, a natural ravine on his estate through which flows the River Worfe. Browne commissioned this pavilion in the Greek Revival style to perch above the scene.
Its exterior may be classically plain, but the salon within was elegantly decorated. Below was a service floor, originally with a hot air heating system based on a Roman hypocaust. Later, Emes’ partner John Webb still further enhanced the Dingle, damming the stream to form three long pools, creating a network of paths and adding other features : an icehouse, Rotunda and caves. All these are there to explore today.
The Birdhouse remained in use until the 1930s, but eventually fell into complete dereliction, reduced to the sort of ruin that no doubt inspired its form in the first place. In 1995 Vivat achieved a triumphant reconstruction and restoration of the building. All who knew Vivat were deeply saddened when, in 2015, the liquidators were called in. The owner of the building was happy for a lease on it to be signed instead with Landmark. Given its provenance and the excellence of its restoration, we were equally happy to take it on, not least to help perpetuate the legacy of such a worthy ally in the fight to preserve Britain’s historic buildings
Over the next few months we will be refurbishing The Birdhouse. We're aiming for an autumn opening - keep an eye out on our website and social media for updates on our progress.