The restoration of the Upper Lodge Water Gardens was the centrepiece of a programme of improvements to Bushy Park. The restorations were funded by The Royal Parks, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Crown Estate, The Royal Parks Foundation, and other supporters.
Built by the 1st Earl of Halifax as a private recreational garden in 1710, the Water Gardens went on to play a unique role in 20th century events, firstly as a hospital for Canadian troops during WW1, then as swimming pools as part of an open air school for East End Boys with respiratory diseases.
The site was used as US barracks during WW2, before being taken over by the Ministry of Defence, playing a significant role in the development of Cold War defence technology. The site then fell into disrepair and remained closed.
Restoration plans got underway in the 1990s, with research undertaken by the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks, and the discovery by Sir Roy Strong of an 18th century painting of the gardens. The Royal Parks built on this early work and secured funding and management responsibility for the site in 2006, allowing restoration work to begin.
The restoration included de-silting and returning the ponds to their original shape and depth, and overhauling the water engineering system to restore the direct connection to the Longford River. The badly-damaged southern flank cascade wall was carefully reconstructed, reincorporating original stonework and bricks into the new structure, and the cascade and northern flank wall were also restored.
Archaeological investigations pinpointed the location of the original stoop basins and alcoves which flank the cascade and these were reconstructed. Formal landscaping and the installation of footpaths have completed the reclamation of the gardens.