LUC: A popular open space in the heart of Watford, Cassiobury Park represents the last surviving portion of the great country seat of the Earl of Essex, and was laid out from C16–C19. The regeneration project aimed to restore and reveal the lost character and features of this 380 year old designed landscape, whilst revitalising the tired C20 ‘People’s Park’. The rejuvenated park enables people to connect with both the past and their local environment, providing a focus for community events and acting as an exemplar for sustainable management.
Appointed by Watford Borough Council, LUC led the project from the outset. This included the HLF funding bid, obtaining planning and listed building consents, appointing a Principal Contractor and undertaking roles of CA and PD during implementation. LUC led a large design team including two architectural firms, structural/MEP engineers, an archaeologist and a cost consultant. The client also assembled a sounding board for input on design parameters and future use. LUC compiled a comprehensive Conservation Management Plan to support the HLF funding application. This provided baseline evidence and a framework for the site masterplan and was developed to organise restoration proposals, describing the significance of the site and identifying its opportunities and issues. The landscape masterplan was developed under the following themes: improvements to historic entrances and pathways; celebrating and recognising the ‘People’s Park’; creative conservation; celebrating the picturesque parkland landscape and interpreting the park’s ‘hidden heritage’; and managing activity, use and visitors. The client/consultant team and Friends of Cassiobury Park worked together with local residents, consulting over 1,200 people. This was coordinated through visitor surveys, exhibition proposals displayed across five different events, community group surveys, consultation with schools and stakeholder workshops.
As a result of the project, restored hidden heritage features are cleverly revealed using interpretation material in the form of a heritage trail to tell the story of the park. This includes the remains of the estate watermill site (c.1900) and Swiss Cottage (c.1800), Bridgeman Lime Avenue, the restoration and reinstatement of the Grade II listed Hill and Smith bandstand to its original 1912 location and paving to reference the surviving foundations of the original park Gate Lodge designed by Humphrey Repton and James Wyatt in 1802, which was demolished in 1970 to facilitate the expansion of Rickmansworth Road.
The ‘People’s Park’ overlay has been reimagined for C21 users, with a new multi-purpose hub building (including café, park-office, changing rooms and an education/exhibition space) positioned in the landscape to compliment the redesigned paddling pools. The reinstated bandstand now enjoys a packed programme of free events and the restored 1925 Tea House and garden provides improved seating and new play facilities for younger children. The hub building is set into the natural slope of the land to minimise its visual impact and utilise thermal mass to reduce heat loss, and it uses energy generated solely by solar panels. Inspired by the riverine landscape of the adjacent River Gade, the new pool design creates a naturalised and sympathetic setting, using a subtle colour palette with integrated planting providing increased shade and cooling for users. The old paddling pool layout was largely retained to reduce construction impact, and now operates using a recycled water system.
Cassiobury Park now celebrates its picturesque parkland landscape and hidden heritage for all to understand and enjoy. It is cherished as one of Britain’s 10 most popular parks, offering something for people of all ages and abilities, providing everything from quiet relaxation and interaction with nature, to opportunities for learning, community participation, well-being, and play.
Landscape Architect: LUC
Client: Watford Borough Council
Architect: Knox Bhavan Architects (Hub building), Rees Bolter Architects (Historic Buildings Architects – Cha Café, Bandstand)
Structural Engineers: Price and Myers
M&E and Services Engineers: Arup
Quantity Surveyor: FT Allen / Heritage Cost Consultants
CDM Advisors: Rod Hewitson / Fred Hurr
Principal Contractor: Borras Construction Ltd
Project Archaeologist: Keevill Heritage Ltd
Location: Watford, London, UK
Size: 75 hectares of greenspace
Project Costs: £5.4 million (incl. Heritage Lottery Funding Grant)
Date Complete: June 2018
Photographer: Simon Jacobs
• 2018 Landscape Institute Award Winner (Heritage + Conservation)
• 2018 Building Futures: Most Sustainable Construction + Project of the Year
• 2019 Civic Trust Regional Finalist