A team of diggers is to be deployed to dredge 400,000 tonnes of silt from Queen’s Pool and the centrepiece Blenheim Lake. As well as restoring the lakes to their original 18th century depth and condition, the works will also reveal areas of the Vanbrugh Bridge which have been underwater for more than 100 years.
Flooded rooms within the bridge will become temporarily accessible again and many archaeological features – including the original layout of a canal system which pre-dated the bridge – will also be uncovered for the first time in centuries.
The multi-million pound project is designed to restore what Lord Randolph Churchill, father of Sir Winston, described as "the finest view in England".
Head of estates Roy Cox said: “There is an absolute certainty that, if we do not do something radical soon, the view will be lost forever. We have to act now to safeguard this iconic landscape for future generations to discover and enjoy.”
He added: “This will be one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken at a stately home and will need to be completed within a relatively short timeframe to prevent permanent damage both to the lakes and the bridge. We will be removing enough silt to entirely fill Wembley Stadium and the logistics of the rescue plan are incredibly complex."
Blenheim Palace was built as a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, from Queen Anne and a grateful nation in thanks for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim on 13th August 1704. Winston Churchill was born there in 1874. Today it is home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The 2,000-acre grounds were landscaped by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and are now home to several designated sites of special scientific interest, including the Great Lake and the ancient oaks in High Park.