It’s a beastly bonus as restoration project introduces a touch of animal magic at Knebworth House
- Credit: Archant
There have been some dark and stormy nights lashing historic Knebworth House in recent weeks – but the new beasts who have become part of the landmark building have been unmoved by thunder, lightning and lashing rain.
Beautifully sculpted by Spectrum Stone of Newmarket, the beasts form the most visible element of the current restoration project at the Grade II* listed building.
Each of the carved stone beasts were carefully craned up into position by specialist teams after being transported to Knebworth, where the restoration is being carried out using traditional methods and materials.
Before they could take up their new positions, workers had to rebuild the unstable parapet down to the bottom of the decorative frieze and refurbish two turrets.
Henry Lytton Cobbold, whose family has lived at Knebworth for more than 500 years, said: “What many people love about Knebworth House is its eccentricity, so it is especially rewarding to be restoring some of that alongside the more practical concerns of roof and structural decay.
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“These beasts have been gone for as long as anyone living can remember, although in Victorian photographs they formed an important part of the house’s iconic skyline.
“I am thrilled they are back – but even more thrilled that the section of roof behind them and the section of wall below them are now stable!”
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The latest phase of the restoration work was financed by the Knebworth House Preservation and Education Trust Ltd – backed by grant aid from Historic England and donations from Knebworth Estates and Lytton Enterprises Ltd.
Knebworth’s romantic Gothic exterior, a favourite for film location companies as well as being a backdrop for some of the biggest rock festivals held in the UK, conceals a much older Tudor structure.
In Victorian times it was the home of the novelist, playwright and politician Edward Bulwer Lytton, who penned the familiar phraise ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ but has also gone down in literary history as the creator of one of the clunkiest openings to any work of fiction.
The opening sentence of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford began: ‘It was a dark and stormy night...’ and the overblown opening sentence, made famous by cartoon dog and would-be bestseller Snoopy, has been hailed as a landmark of purple prose.
For more than 20 years an American university has organised the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest which asks entrants only to write the most compelling opening sentence to a story that they can – and then stop.