Film fans know it as the location of the famous nude wrestling scene in Ken Russell’s 1969 classic version of DH Lawrence’s ‘Women in Love’. Now Derbyshire’s Elvaston Castle and its historic landscape are one step closer to realising an ambitious £35m transformation plan.

Fifty years after actors Oliver Reed and Alan Bates famously grappled each other in the castle’s Hall of the Fair Star, Elvaston Castle & Garden Trust (ECGT), in partnership with Derbyshire County Council, is preparing planning applications to restore the 321-acre estate, including its many listed buildings and historic features.

Dr Peter Robinson, Chair of ECGT: “This is an incredibly exciting opportunity and the thoughts and ideas contributed by locals and the wider Derbyshire community have been invaluable in shaping this plan. Like many people, I love Elvaston and visit frequently with family and friends.

“We have five years of hard work in front of us, but we’re determined to bring the castle, gardens and wider parkland back to life. We are committed to opening up much more of the estate to the public, including the three courtyards of beautiful stable buildings which include a blacksmith’s forge, gas engine and the remains of an original Real Tennis Court.”

Councillor Tony King, Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Clean Growth and Regeneration: “In normal times, Elvaston Castle and Country Park is enjoyed by people from all over Derbyshire so it’s no surprise that so many wanted to contribute their own ideas, many of which have been included in our Masterplan.

“We believe this restoration will secure the future of Elvaston Castle and Country Park for generations to come by making it a sustainable visitor attraction that can stand on its own two feet, saving millions of pounds for Derbyshire council tax-payers who currently pay for the upkeep of the estate.”

Restored to its former glory, the whole site will remain a country park, free at the point of entry with more visitors to help contribute to the running costs.

Redecorated with an authentic paint scheme and with its original niches and pinnacles restored, the now infamous Hall of the Fair Star will be refurbished in keeping with the mid-19th Century gothic revival style that James Wyatt designed for the 4th Earl of Harrington.

A key element of the plan is to reduce traffic through local villages and improve visitor access to the site, which sits five miles south-east of Derby city centre and attracts 240,000 visitors each year. To divert traffic away from local villages, a new entrance and access drive will be located closer to the A6 and take visitors more quickly into the heart of the estate.

Following a comprehensive public consultation and many months of work with the National Trust, Elvaston Castle and Garden Trust (ECGT) and Derbyshire County Council are putting the final touches to detailed plans which will reverse decades of underinvestment and secure the estate’s future.

Once the home of the Earls of Harrington, the Stanhope family left Elvaston Castle after WWII. Derbyshire County Council rescued the site in the 1960s when it was threatened by development for mining and developed it as Britain’s first country park. During recent decades, shrinking local government budgets have meant that the Council has struggled to meet rising running costs while a number of bids to provide the site with a sustainable future have unfortunately proved unsuccessful.

Subject to planning permission, proposed developments under the Masterplan will include:

  • Repair and renovation of historic buildings to bring them back into use – for example, as retail, office and workshop space or as holiday cottages and, where possible, reflecting their former uses.
  • Upgrading catering facilities including a new main café, which would be a key feature of the courtyard, and providing smaller catering facilities around the site.
  • New access drive closer to the A6, taking visitors to the heart of the estate.
  • A new adventure playground close to the main café.
  • Offering camping and glamping on the estate’s former campsite with facilities for touring caravans, motorhomes and tents.
  • An improved and varied events programme to attract a wider audience.
  • Converting the upper floor of the castle into suites which could be available to let out for weddings and other events.

Regeneration of the estate is expected to create more than 170 new, local jobs and increase the number of visitors from 240,000. There are no plans to build new residential housing on the estate.

The £35m regeneration cost will come from a mix of public and private investment including bids to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership and substantial investment from Derbyshire County Council. The county council’s long-term plan is to hand the day-to-day running of the estate to the charity, Elvaston Castle and Gardens Trust (ECGT).

Derbyshire County Council says this major investment will put Elvaston on a sustainable footing, relieving the Council of significant on-going annual maintenance and running costs; resolving the major backlog of repairs and other work; and maintaining public access to the estate.

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