Renovating Tortworth Court
The task to rebuild was embarked upon. It had to be a sensitive conversion of an old building, with the old and the new blended so carefully that it would be difficult to differentiate one from the other. The restoration project was a daunting task and a nightmare of planning and conservation. Materials had to be the same as originally used. The first job was to make the building safe and a steel frame was lowered by crane into the burnt out section. Following the demolition, the salvage teams were able to go in and clean out the rubble of the collapsed building. This was then sorted and items unbroken such as roof tiles were saved and put aside.
The ceiling height on the ground floor is 19 feet, so in part of the building, used mostly as offices and kitchens, a mezzanine floor has been added housing offices, ladies changing rooms and the gymnasium.
An Amazing Transformation
Former stables are bedrooms, the circular meat-hanging room is now a black and gold honeymoon suite and the Orangery transformed into a restaurant. The vast library now functions as the main dining room. The white walls of the roomy bedrooms (189 in all) offset the heavy heraldic furnishings and oak beams. The Westminster Suite is a completely new building in a style to match the existing house. In the corridor leading to the suite one can see a Magnolia Tree that had to be protected under the planning rules, thus the glazed walls were put in place. There is also a large indoor swimming pool, a spa pool, a well-equipped gym and a beauty salon. The gardens and park were in a neglected state in 1999 and the Head Gardener, John Hunt, and his team, have been extremely busy restoring them to their former glory as seen in some early photographs taken around 1930. The steps on the lower terrace were added in 1978 for the visit of the Queen, this might explain why they are not central.
Clearing The Grounds
Much of the grounds were covered with brambles and rough grass. All the paths were grassed over and it was not until clearing began that the pets cemetery was discovered. This lies just beyond and to the right of the Wisteria and Laburnum tunnel now restored. The trees have all been documented as to their name, size, age and condition. They have also benefited from the attention of a tree surgeon where necessary. Each tree is now labelled with a number and there is a booklet obtainable from the Hotel Reception, which identifies all the trees, many of which are very rare and several are the best example of their species in England. There are two superb specimens of DAVIDIA INVOLUCRATA, the Paper Handkerchief tree and it is suggested that the tree numbered 143, ZELKOVA CARPINIFOLIA (Caucasian Elm) may be the largest in the British Isles with a girth of 6.52m and well over 30m high. The Earl had another passion “The Grey Lady” who, when spurned, threw herself out of the window of the tower room. There have been no recent sightings of this ghost as of yet.
A New Lease of Life
Since 1853 Tortworth Court has seen many changes. The total cost of our restoration project was in excess of 20 million pounds and it is our sincere belief that, since the hotel opened, the building has been given a new lease of life.