King Charles is set to appear on a royal ‘Grand Design’ TV special that features his ambitious plan to save an 18th century stately home from ruin.
The film, which has been over a decade in the making, shows the monarch’s bid to breathe new life into rundown Dumfries House, in Ayrshire, Scotland – one of the most deprived areas of the UK.
The story starts 14 years ago when, against all advice, King Charles, then the Prince of Wales, throws caution to the wind and buys the rundown estate.
It is, in his own words, ‘an appalling risk’ – but he still leads a consortium that pays £45m for the dilapidated stately home.
The hour-long special film – called King Charles' Grand Green Design and set to be aired on ITV on Wednesday 30 November at 9pm – provides an insight into the King’s commitment and passion for the project.
He tells the programme: “I knew if we hadn’t stepped in and saved it, somebody would have bought it and said they had a great idea, you know for golf courses and things and it would never have worked, so, it would have joined the list of yet more derelict country houses.
“The buildings we’ve built, a lot of them have been done by students, live build, learning. Sustainability, all of that agenda is critical here because there’s a lot of engineering skills, for instance, we are trying to help develop, working on the STEM educational side and the vocational side in order to make this area as a great example of how you can create new businesses and jobs in the green economy.”
The film, narrated by Richard E. Grant, tells the history of Dumfries House and its 2000 acre estate – including how it came to be for sale.
King Charles discusses the historic furniture that was going to be sold separately at auction – revealing how some of it was stopped in a van on the motorway and taken back to the estate once he had decided to buy the house.
The restoration of Dumfries House was a huge project for The Prince’s Foundation. Expert restorers tell how they saved individual pieces of antique furniture, including a priceless Chippendale bookcase, by hand.
The King says: “If you think of the skill, devotion and dedication that went into building these buildings, with unbelievably skilled craftsmen, very often their descendants are still in the area, so I’ve always felt we owe it to those skilled craftsmen to help maintain the results of their labours.”
As well as restoring the main house, King Charles’ vision was to bring the estate back to life to give hope and pride to the surrounding area.
The film details his plans to bring back to life one of the largest walled gardens in Europe and include, amongst other things, a horticultural and education centre, an outdoor adventure centre, an artists’ studio, an architecture centre and a teaching farm.
Charles is seen helping the lead garden designer plant trees in the walled garden and they each give details of their visions, plans and drawings.
As the restoration nears completion, members of the public are allowed through the doors.
And finally, as the walled garden and outdoor centre are completed, Charles gets to give a tour to his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, and his son, Prince William.
The King says: “It’s what you can do for the community with the house and the estate… It’s got the wonderful teaching garden… which makes a huge difference to local people. We get the children in to learn about food and where it comes from and help them to grow it.
“I wanted to rescue the house, because it is of such importance, I knew it was a very deprived area.
“I wanted to use it as a proper example of, what I’ve always believed in, which is heritage-led regeneration. And trying to show people that it works.”
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