Recognition for Prior Park Dams restoration project

A landmark project to restore Prior Park’s historic landscape gardens in Bath won twin awards and a commendation at two prestigious events in November. The scheme was recognised for the successful integration of complex engineering works within a sensitive heritage setting, and has safeguarded the Grade I Park and Garden for future generations.

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Known informally as the Dams Project, the scheme to restore the Grade 1 Listed landscape gardens at Prior Park was voted the winner in two categories at the 2023 Institute of Civil Engineers – South West Civil Engineering Awards in November, winning both the award for the best re-engineered project under £8 million, and the coveted People’s Choice Award. The event showcases the collective and individual achievements of civil engineers and civil engineering in the region.

Speaking at the awards ceremony in Bristol, judges said the project had been carried out with “absolute consideration” for the landscape and history of the park, and praised the collaboration between the client, project design and contractor teams involved..

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The project also received a Commendation in the category ‘Restoration of a Georgian Landscape or Garden’ at the Georgian Group’s Architectural Awards in London. Held at the Royal Institution of British Architects (RIBA), the annual event awards “exemplary conservation and restoration projects in the UK and reward those who have shown the vision and commitment to restore Georgian buildings and landscapes”.

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Proposed Verified View

The eight-year scheme saw Nicholas Pearson Associates act as lead landscape consultant to the National Trust, working alongside engineering contractor Griffiths and water infrastructure specialist Binnies. We also provided ecology and planning support, whilst our visualisation team provided verified images of the proposals to assist in discussions with Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Conservation Officer and Historic England. Heritage advice was provided by Nicholas Pearson Partnership and architectural input from Architecton.

Prior Park is a Grade II Registered Park and Garden located within the City of Bath World Heritage Site and Bath Conservation Area. The landscape garden was developed in the 18th Century with input from Alexander Pope and ‘Capability’ Brown and, since taking over the site in 1993, the National Trust has been working to restore the garden to how it would have appeared at the time of creator Ralph Allen’s death in 1764.

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Middle Dam re-profiling
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Restored Cascade

Restoring for Resilience

The project involved crucial repairs to the historic lower dams and stilling pond and an almost complete rebuild of the middle dam at the centre of the site. These had been progressively undermined by invasive American Signal Crayfish and water from hidden springs, putting the dams at risk of failure. In addition to the restoration works, the lower dam outlet was re-designed to enable it to cope better with climate change factors.

Nicholas Pearson Associates worked closely with the National Trust, key stakeholders and the engineering team throughout to develop a design that would restore the original essential qualities of the landscape setting of the site gardens, improve accessibility and bolster the site’s ability to deal with extreme weather events.

Key to the project’s success was the sensitive integration of the newly engineered structures into the historic landscape setting. Using a 1758 Tho Thomas Robbins sketch from around 1758, and historic maps, our the visualisation team generated a 3D model of the garden to aid the restoration design for of historic views towards the Grade II Listed Palladian Bridge and its reflections in the pond surface.

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The design also incorporated the creation of a sweeping lawn down to the ponds, coupled with sensitively designed and graded pathways to improve accessibility. The final phase of works involved planting the banks and dams with a selection of plant species that would have been typically available in the 18th century.

The project was completed in 2022.


Clare is a Graduate Ecologist with Nicholas Pearson Associates. She is working towards chartership with the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM).

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