First aired: 24th April 2009.
Runtime: 59 min 17 s.
When English Heritage bought Apethorpe Hall - a huge, crumbling Jacobean mansion hidden away in the Northants countryside - it was supposed to symbolise everything that was good about the energy that their new chief executive, Simon Thurley, was bringing to English Heritage. They would buy the place, do it up, and then recoup the enormous investment of public money by selling it off. Theory and practice have proven rather different, and could yet leave the taxpayer with a bill running to millions.
The scale of the task is enormous - seven million pounds has been spent and another ten million needs to be spent, before things like installing electricity are even to be considered. And English Heritage cannot sell it, at any price.
The state of the house and the state of the property market combine to ensure that four years after English Heritage bought it, Apethorpe Hall is still very much on the market, with English Heritage now looking at a multi-million pound loss. Through it all - the meetings with the ever-optimistic estate agents and the dawning realisation that this is a step too far - the beauty of the place shines through.
It is a beauty cherished by George Kelley - he has lived and worked at Apethorpe for 37 years. He is the chorus in the film, wryly dispassionate, as English Heritage and Simon struggle with their nightmare, 'It'll sell, it'll sell... it's just that the right person hasn't seen it yet'.
What is the largest listed building in Europe? Not a cathedral, not a castle. It is Park Hill Estate in Sheffield, a crumbling 1950s concrete monolith that dominates the city's skyline. Saving Park Hill was supposed to be about bringing English Heritage, the national heritage agency, bang up to date, in a modernisation.
Instead, it plunges English Heritage and its chief executive Simon Thurley into an unexpected public row. The decision to list Park Hill was hugely unpopular locally, and rapidly became the defining issue in the local elections: the Liberal Democrats, chaired by Paul Scriven, were running on an anti-English Heritage ticket, collecting 50,000 signatures on a petition calling for the decision to list the estate to be reversed.
Listing Park Hill meant the council could not knock it down - as they had the three other similar estates in their care. Now they had to redevelop it, or face a 50 million pound restoration bill.
They and English Heritage approve a scheme proposed by hip Manchester developers Urban Splash - and English Heritage even promise 500,000 pounds toward the restoration of Park Hill's defining concrete grid. However, there's bad news to come: the credit crunch.
File: English Heritage Ep02 - A Very Grand Design (Park Hill).avi (481,886,208 bytes)
Video: XviD, 949 Kb/s, 608x352 (38:22), 25 fps
Audio: MP3, 128 Kb/s, 2ch, 48 KHz
Episode 3 - The Queen, Her Lover and His Castle
First aired: 8th May 2009.
Runtime: 59 min 23 s.
Kenilworth Castle is a picturesque ruin. Once it was home to Robert, Lord Dudley, Elizabeth I's favourite. In 1575 he built a garden for a 19-day visit by his Queen that has gone down in legend.
English Heritage director Anna Keay is given the task of recreating Dudley's garden by her husband, English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley. Anna has just one piece of written evidence to work from, a letter by a lowly courtier, describing a garden split into quarters, each containing an obelisk. The letter also indicates the existence of two arbours, an aviary, and a huge marble fountain.
The problems of relying on just one piece of evidence slowly become apparent. Archaeological searches find the fountain base, but no trace of arbour, aviary, obelisks or statue. The budget climbs, as English Heritage have to guess what the buildings might have looked like. They're now committed to spending two million pounds. After problems finding a suitable builder, they finally get on site a year later than originally planned.
On site, the problems multiply. They build a large earth bank, hard by the castle, in accordance with the dimensions laid out in the courtier's letter. Unfortunately it proves too steep for any grass to grow. They have to insert a plastic retaining mesh, to Simon Thurley's evident irritation.
The carpenters start to build the aviary and arbours, only to discover that they are structurally unsound. They too have to be redesigned, with steel inserted, raising questions about the historical validity of the entire exercise. Worse still, nobody wants to pay for the vastly expensive structural steel.
The restoration of London's King's Cross, its station and the adjacent goods yard is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe - King's Cross is a Grade I listed building of lasting historical importance. So nothing can be done at King's Cross without the say-so of one woman, case officer Clare Brady, English Heritage's sole representative to the huge teams of architects and engineers marshalled by Network Rail and developer Argent.
The programme chronicles the battle of wills between Clare and the two men driving their respective developments forward: property magnate Roger Madelin, chief executive of Argent, and Network Rail's architect John McAslan. But this is about more than a battle of wills, it is also about Britain's national identity, and whether to side with history, as Clare tries to preserve some fragments of the place's historic past, or to plump for progress, as both men passionately argue for sleek modernity.
At the station, John McAslan's design causes conflict - English Heritage want to expose some 19th-century cast-iron brackets, McAlsan disagrees. For a year, English Heritage block the redesign of the booking hall, and reject McAslan's sleek iron bridge.
At the goods yard, things start well as Argent persuade English Heritage to allow them to knock down a Victorian apartment block. But then the arguments start - turntables that English Heritage want preserved, vast LED screens that they reject.
Eventually, faced with punishing deadlines, both Argent and Network Rail relent, and English Heritage win the day.
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