This fall, the Blenheim Palace estate in Oxfordshire, England has suffered a challenging restoration. The projects began with the reconstruction of the Grand Bridge, which is part of the estate. As soon as the $15 million project finishes fixing the 18th-century bridge, the “finest view in England” should come back to life. However, the experts had to stop their work as soon as they uncovered a huge network of secret rooms. You won’t believe how many rooms there are in the bridge!
20. BLENHEIM PALACE
The palace is known for being the place where the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was born in 1874. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill said that Blenheim Palace was the “finest view in England.” But what nobody knew until today was that really hiding…
19. THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF MARLBOROUGH
The estate was given to the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough as a reward for the first duke – John Churchill, who won the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 against the French during the War of the Spanish Succession.
Who was the architect of the bridge?
18. THE AMBITIOUS ARCHITECTURE
Known as the Grand Bridge, or Vanbrugh Bridge, this ambitious structure was not just a bridge. It was meant to be a “habitable viaduct” on the Blenheim estate. Sir John Vanbrugh designed and executed the project which started in 1708 and ended in 1710.
You won’t believe what the First Duchess of Marlborough thought of this plan!
17. TOO EXPENSIVE
The First Duchess of Marlborough, Sarah Churchill was not impressed with the architect’s plan, thinking that he was too ambitious and it cost too much. That’s how Vanbrugh ended up being banned from Blenheim. What happened afterward?
16. BRINGING THE LAKES
After Vanbrugh was banned from the estate, the gardener and architect Lancelot “Capability” Brown had a new idea with the grounds. He wanted to bring in lakes that would cover 160 acres, and so the inside of the bridge was flooded…
15. THE GREAT LAKE AND THE QUEEN POOL
The lakes called the Great Lake, and the Queen Pool are now threatening the bridge. Both lakes have started to dry out, and as soon as the water disappears, the bridge could collapse. Now experts have been working to restore the lakes.
How does one ‘restore’ a lake?
14. RESTORING THE LAKES
Over the past decades, the lakes kept drying because of the build-up of silt. To fix this issue, engineers had to dredge almost 400,000 tons of sediment that was on the bottom of the lakes, making them as deep as they were back in the beginning. But before that, the experts had to lower the water level.
And that’s how they revealed the secret rooms!
13. THE GRAND BRIDGE FOUNDATION
Experts had to lower the water level and get a chance to examine the foundations of the Grand Bridge and see what happens if they’re not supported by a body of water. That was when they made this great discovery.
Wait until you see the photos with the inside of the bridge!
12. THIRTY ROOMS!
It is amazing how Vanbrugh made 30 rooms inside the bridge, rooms that made the viaduct habitable. These exact rooms were flooded 60 years later by Capability Brown and hadn’t been revealed ever since. The recent survey done by researchers unveiled eerie remains of people’s homes…
11. THE REMAINS OF MANY HOMES
The researchers were stunned, looking at the chimneys, fireplaces, cooking ranges, stairways and at a room that had no windows – which could have been a theater. And that’s not everything archaeologists found inside!
10. THE EARLY 18TH CENTURY
Archaeologists uncovered secret tunnels, sunken boats and yes, that is an 18th-century graffiti. One of the rooms has a plastered ceiling that survived so well despite the rough conditions. But that’s not all of it!
9. OLD HABITS – GRAFFITI
Dating from the 1760s, the graffiti on the walls can be seen, and inside the rooms, there were many pieces of history, like the ones in the next photos…
This is breathtaking!
8. SUNKEN BOATS
Inside a room, there are boats from the 1950s, probably used for cutting reeds, and among them, there was a motorized boat. Before the bridge was constructed, there was also an old canal system.
Here is what Blenheim Palace’s spokesperson said about this estate at #6.
7. UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
The palace has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. This means that the place must be kept in great condition and the dredging of the lakes is part of a bigger plan to restore and preserve the beautiful Blenheim.
6. A SPIRAL STAIRCASE
The spokesperson for Blenheim Palace said that “over the years people have been inside some parts of the bridge for maintenance and inspection purposes.” There was a manhole cover that dropped to a part of the bridge…
5. “IT IS CAVERNOUS INSIDE”
That path would take people at a spiral staircase, “But many of the rooms, especially the lower rooms, haven’t been accessed since they were flooded. That is until now. It is cavernous inside. When you see things like sunken boats inside it is like time has stood still,” added the spokesperson.
4. WORKMEN’S NAMES
Unfortunately, two tunnels couldn’t be inspected further since they were blocked off after 30 meters. As for the graffiti on the walls, the spokesperson said that “the assumption is that they were workmen here.”
3. A GREAT CHALLENGE
The head of estates at Blenheim, Roy Cox stated in an interview with the local newspaper Oxford Mail that their plan of restoration is huge and challenging:
“The dredging of Queen’s Pool and the repairs to the Grand Bridge are not only our greatest challenge to date but also marks some of the most ambitious stonework and dredging projects ever attempted in the U.K.”
2. REVEALING THE PAST
Cox added that their 3D survey of the interior has “already revealed a large number of rooms and passageways, some containing original plasterwork, stairways and potentially cooking ranges.”
No matter how Blenheim Palace will look in the future, it’s no doubt that this discovery is exciting for everyone!
1. AN EXCITING UNCOVERING
The most beautiful estate in England is even more alluring now that it has secret rooms hidden for so long! We cannot wait to see what else the archaeologists uncover next since their work has just begun!