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Longleat Enlists Abseiling Stonemasons To Inspect 300-Year-Old Coat Of Arms

Abseiling stonemasons James Preston and Columba Strachey inspecting the coat of arms at Longleat House

Abseiling stonemasons James Preston and Columba Strachey inspecting the coat of arms at Longleat House

Longleat is employing the services of abseiling stonemasons to inspect a 300-year-old carved coat of arms on the front of Longleat House.

The inspection is part of the regular monitoring and conservation work required to maintain the Grade I listed Elizabethan mansion.

The work is being carried out by James Preston and Columba Strachey, from Wells-based Sally Strachey Historic Conservation, who had to abseil 20 metres down from the roof of the Wiltshire stately home to get a close-up view of the carved stonework.

“The rope work inspection is one of the more unusual aspects of ensuring the long-term preservation of this important building,” said Longleat House Manager, James Cripps.

“It enables us to check the hard-to-reach parts of this amazing house and undertake minor stonework conservation where necessary. Today the coat of arms has passed with flying colours, so at the moment no interventions are needed,” he added.

The coat of arms features two ‘lions rampant’ with knotted tails and is surmounted by a viscount’s coronet. It was carved by sculptor Claude David in around 1705 as part of a new entrance for Longleat House commissioned by Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth.

This replaced a previous entrance designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the 1660s, which was adapted and relocated to a school founded in 1705 by the 1st Viscount in nearby Warminster, where it remains to this day.

Originally from Burgundy, by 1700 Claude David was in England carrying out work at Windsor Castle for William III.

In addition to the entrance, the 1st Viscount also commissioned David to sculpt several statues for the new formal gardens he introduced at Longleat.

These gardens were replaced in the mid-18th century by the present parkland landscape designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

This year Longleat House is celebrating 70 years since becoming the first stately home to open to the public on a fully commercial basis.

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