National Trust treats

Darnley Mausoleum, Cobham

Darnley Mausoleum, Cobham - Credit: Archant

Restoration work at Cobhamm Wood and Smallhythe Place is revealed

Spring often brings with it new beginnings, and this is very true of two special places in Kent. Next month, the public will see for the first time the results of many years’ restoration work in Cobham Wood by the National Trust to bring an intriguing mausoleum back to its former neo-classical glory. And in Tenterden, a popular theatre owned and managed by the National Trust has been renovated, putting previously unseen areas back on show.

Cobham Wood and Mausoleum

A trip to Cobham Wood already offers the chance to explore ancient woodland, admire lovely views and spot grazing cattle. However, from 6 April, visitors will also be able to explore an unusual pyramid structure with a fascinating history.

Darnley Mausoleum will open to the public for the first time since it was transferred into the care of the National Trust by Gravesham Borough Council and restored and repaired, following a devastating fire.

Previously, visitors have been able to walk and picnic in the woodlands while looking round the mausoleum’s exterior. A square, stone building with a prominent pyramid, it is surrounded by a dry moat.

The building was never consecrated for burials and so contains empty vaults in the ground-level crypt, with a large chapel space upstairs. The very top of the building offers views across Cobham Park and the river Thames.

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Overseeing the management of Cobham Wood and Darnley Mausoleum for the National Trust is Bernadette Gillow. “So many people have been involved in saving this special landscape and we look forward to sharing it with our visitors and telling its stories,” she says.

“We’re planning to open on Sundays (April to September) with pre-booked group tours available and intend it to remain a place for everyone to enjoy for a long time to come.”

• Cobham Wood is open daily. The Mausoleum will open from 6 April; details about days, times and bookings are online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cobham-wood.

Smallhythe Place’s theatre

One of a very small number of theatres in the National Trust’s care – and the only one also operated by the organisation – has also undergone renovations over the winter.

The barn theatre at Smallhythe Place, near Tenterden, holds a special place in the local community, based as it is in the home of Victorian actress, Ellen Terry.

Restoration works have included the construction of a new stage and repairs backstage to the Green Room and dressing room.

To mark the conclusion of the repair works, the Trust will run backstage tours for the first time ever from April.

Tours will take in the backstage areas and the new stage, which was built using much of the original boarding that luminaries such as Sir John Gielgud, Sybil Thorndike, Edith Evans and Alec Guinness once walked on.

More contemporary performers have also included Timothy West, Prunella Scales, Jenny Agutter, Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove.

Many of Ellen Terry’s costumes, props and personal effects are on show in the main house; however, the restored Green Room will now house additional displays of previously unseen items.

These include such highlights as costumes and make-up from the 1930s, as well as original props and artefacts from the era. One particularly interesting object is a trick mirror used to create ghostly effects on stage.

• Smallhythe Place opens for the 2014 season on 1 March. Theatre tours must be booked in advance (up to 10 people at a time) and are free with donations welcome. More details are at: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/smallhythe-place. n