Restoration bridges the gap to Upminster estate’s grand past
- Credit: Archant
Park enthusiasts have completed their mission to restore a dilapidated bridge to its former glory.
Community group – Friends of Parklands – headed by chairman Andrew Griffiths, oversaw the 17-year project to see Parklands Bridge in Parklands Open Space, Upminster, removed from Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.
Funded by community grants and Havering Council, restoration of the Grade II listed structure was completed in April at a cost of more than £100,000.
Mr Griffiths said: “I think that people are pleased that part of our heritage is available for future generations.
“It was looking a right state and it is a nice feature.
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“We have the Tithe Barn and Windmill, together it is all part of the old Upminster.”
From 1218, Parklands was part of the Gaynes Estate, whose name derived from owner Vitalis Engayne.
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The site dates back to Roman Britain and in the Middle Ages, covered most of the south half of Upminster comprising 1,500 acres.
In 1962, an Iron Age farm was found on part of the estate. It was fully excavated in the mid 1990s and Bronze Age items were found dating back to 200 BC.
After numerous owners, the land settled in the hands of Sir James Esdaile who in 1780 created the estate as it is now known, despite parts being sold over the years for building development.
Sir James built a new manor house, laid out the 100-acre park, dammed a stream to create a lake and built a bridge at its east end surrounded by trees and shrubbery.
Architect James Paine, whose works include Ingrave’s Thorndon Hall and the grand stables at Chatsworth House – home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire – created the 18th century semi-circular arched bridge.
Attempts to restore the bridge began in 1999 when Mr Griffiths first got involved with an organisation called the Upminster Conversation Partnership.
“We tried to restore the bridge and to get a high profile we decided to form the Friends of Parklands,” Mr Griffiths said.
“We couldn’t get grants because we needed to own the bridge. So we had to go into partnership with the London Borough of Havering.
“This caused problems because of other priorities.”
However, through a dedicated heritage officer, the council became more involved and gave the majority of money needed to fund the project.
“People speak about the bridge and we knew there was public support for it.
“It took a bit of while to get going but we are pleased with the result.”