Dry Stone Wall Restoration Uncovers Ghostly Relics of Blenheim’s Past

Restoration work on our traditional dry stone walling has revealed a fascinating glimpse into the estate’s past.
Dry Stone Wall Restoration Uncovers Ghostly Relics of Blenheim’s Past

There are more than nine miles of walling on the perimeter of our estate with sections dating back to the creation of the Palace in the 18th century.

A team of skilled craftsmen is currently undertaking a major rebuilding programme for the walls. On average it takes about a day to build half a square metre of wall.

During their repairs they have discovered coins, clay pipes and a pocket watch among a series of artefacts left by previous workmen over the centuries.

“With such a vast amount of walling surrounding the entire estate it’s pretty much a never-ending task to inspect and repair it,” said Chris Keeler, our Estate Maintenance and Conservation Manager.

“We are very much following in the footsteps of previous teams who have both created and reinstated sections of the wall for more than three centuries.

“Part of the fascination of the job is when you come across objects and artefacts left or lost by those workmen.

"It really helps to bring the walls’ long history to life and, while we do our utmost not to leave any traces of our own repair work, I am sure that in years to come future generations will discover things we have left behind,” he added.

Originally the limestone would have been quarried on the estate, however it now comes from a quarry 10 miles away.

Historically the walls were a means to keep livestock separated and secure and to mark boundary fields.

However today dry stone walling is also seeing a resurgence in popularity as it provides a hugely important habitat for a wide range of wildlife from amphibians, snakes, slow worms and lizards to field voles, mice and bats.

A variety of birds species ranging like blue tits, great tits, wagtails, sparrows, spotted fly catchers, nuthatches, wheatears, redstarts and little owls also make use of the wall’s nooks and crannies.

It is estimated there are over 120,000 miles of dry stone field walls in the UK with the earliest examples dating back to the Bronze Age.

Our Estate Maintenance and Conservation Team repairing part of our Park's boundary wall