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Harewood Statement – A Harewood for the next generation

– Harewood announces closure of Bird Garden
– A woodland garden will take its place, bringing historic walks back into existence
– Trust looks to its long-term future, with a focus on programming, its audience
and the environment.

In 2021, Harewood quietly marked 250 years since the completion of Harewood House being built. This stunning Palladian home, built by John Carr of York with interiors by Robert Adam, and landscapes by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, has seen incredible changes during its lifetime. Since 1986 the care of Harewood has been entrusted to a charity, Harewood House Trust, with a board of Trustees and an administration tasked with ensuring its long-term future and providing a place for the public benefit.

The last few years have been especially difficult, particularly in light of Covid-19, and as we enter 2023 we are all acutely aware of the financial pressures that we face.

Harewood is not immune to these difficulties and in spite of having a record-breaking year with visitor numbers, the Charity remains reliant on the support of the Lascelles family, its Members and visitors, Arts Council England and others in order to offer a great experience whilst balancing conservation needs of the site, with ever greater pressure on our resources.

As the Trust looks to its long-term future it has to consider what Harewood will look like in 5, 10, 25 years’ time from now and beyond, to ensure we stay relevant and able to remain open for everyone to enjoy.

Harewood’s Bird Garden is now over 50 years old and, as visitors have pointed out to us consistently over the past few years, the birds’ environment is not on a par with more up-to-date zoos. At Harewood’s last zoo inspection, the team were praised for their excellent care and the health of the birds, but sadly they identified many problems with the site’s physical infrastructure that the charity cannot sustain.

Over the last six months we have been researching options for the charity going forwards, however, with a need for a £4 million investment to just the Bird Garden alone, the Trust has had to make the incredibly difficult decision to close this part of the Harewood experience. The Trust simply cannot make the Bird Garden the place that we, and you, all want it to be.

Over the next six months or so, the birds – many of which are exotic or endangered – will be re-homed at places better equipped long-term to ensure they continue to have comfortable and enriched lives and to ensure their life-long care. The closure date of the Bird Garden will be published later in the year once these dates become clear.

In its place, we will create a new woodland garden, making it an environment where native wildlife can thrive. You will be able to observe woodland and water birds, red kites, otters and more. It also provides us with an opportunity to recreate some historic walks, part of which is expanding the South Park walk that opened in 2021.

Harewood’s Farm Experience will remain but we will look at the opportunities to improve the area surrounding Harewood’s Courtyard to provide a better visitor experience and open up some incredibly beautiful views of the site.
We realise that many of Harewood’s visitors love the Bird Garden and have children who love it too. It has been an incredibly difficult conclusion to reach but it is the most responsible and ethical decision to make, to ensure the health and care of these beautiful creatures, but also to ensure Harewood can stand the test of time and be here for as long as it has stood already.

Emily Shard, chair of Harewood House Trust, comments:

‘It is with huge sadness that the Trustees have reached the conclusion that the Bird Garden must close. Harewood and the Lascelles family have long been committed to the care and conservation of wildlife and nature, but the wellbeing of the birds is paramount. The investment needed to create a modern zoo and maintain this each year is too much for the Trust to afford.

We therefore realise that we must make this change and focus on the long-term ambition of this wonderful place, and on the opportunities that Harewood has to support our environment, represent the people and the communities that live in this area today, and to continue to develop Harewood, to serve its best purpose into the future.’

Harewood’s winter season begins once again this weekend when we will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until our full all-week opening from Friday 17 March. We will also be open throughout Leeds half term week, Monday 13 to Sunday 19 February.

We will be announcing 2023’s programme of exhibitions and activities in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, thank you to all our Members, visitors, volunteers and supporters for your continued support and your understanding.
Harewood looks forward to welcoming you throughout the next year and beyond, and will continue to update visitors as the Birds go to new homes.

Harewood House … in gingerbread form

Currently situated centre stage in the Old Kitchen is a most beautiful Gingerbread Harewood House, made and iced by one of our Garden Volunteers Klara. For this blog, we sit down with Klara and ask her about volunteering at Harewood and how her interest in gingerbread began.

When did you make and ice your first gingerbread?
I grew up in Hungary. Since I was a child, making gingerbread has been a part of my life. It is a Christmas tradition in our country to make and decorate gingerbread cookies, we call “mézeskalacs”.

How did you learn your craft?
At first, I learned my craft from my mother. Later, I developed my own style and various recipes, including gluten free, diary free and vegan. Over the years I adjusted my collections to meet the country-specific trend where I had been living. However, I have never lost my own style that makes my work unique and recognizable. I have a quality-oriented mindset, that comes from my background as a chemical engineer working in quality management and also as a certificated botanical artist.

How did you hear about volunteering at Harewood ?
I moved to Yorkshire in 2021 and I was looking for a volunteer gardening opportunity and I saw an advertisement for a Volunteer Open Afternoon in the Walled Garden when I first visited Harewood.

What is it you enjoy most about volunteering with the garden team?

The Garden team (staff and volunteers) are all very friendly and welcoming. We learn so much from the professional gardeners.

We work in a very warm environment, in beautiful surroundings, where everyone is very enthusiastic about our work and at the end of the day, when we see the results of our efforts, we feel very proud.

How did you start to make the Harewood gingerbread House ?
I researched the floorplan, took many photos and then simplified the House, retaining its main characteristics. In total, it took about 2 weeks to complete the project.

What icing do you find most satisfying or do you enjoy doing most?
I like the simple traditional designs, but my favourite is creating gingerbreads where I can use my own imagination and design. It is most satisfying when I see the magic of a plain gingerbread transformed through my icing. I especially like doing 3D creations such as houses, Easter eggs, boxes, etc.

What would you like to do in the future?
I hope that I will have more opportunities in the UK to introduce my gingerbread artwork to more people and share my love of this beautiful craft.

 

@paindepicesdeklara
Klara’s Gingerbread on Facebook

The Ferry at Harewood

Why isn’t the Ferry running?

Harewood’s Ferry made its maiden voyage in June 2018 and has carried thousands of Harewood visitors every week between the Bird Garden, Bothy and Walled Garden.
In May 2022, the water level in the Lake started to decrease due to low rainfall throughout winter and spring. In June the water level reached a point where the Ferry ran aground and could no longer run. The mud banking you can see around the Lake has not been seen since the Lake was last drained many decades ago.

When will it be operating again?

Unless the weather for the remaining half of the year features a consistent and heavy amount of rain, it is unlikely that the water level will reach a point where we can operate the Ferry again until 2023.
Harewood House Trust, the charity that looks after this site, and the Harewood Estate are working with the Environment Agency and Leeds City Council to ensure the health and wellbeing of Harewood’s wildlife that rely on the Lake. The Trust and Estate are also looking at the Lake’s infrastructure to help plan and mitigate against the impact of climate change, including prolonged periods of dry weather.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

 

Harewood House Trust Appoints Darren Pih as Chief Curator and Artistic Director

Pih joins the Harewood House Trust executive team from Tate Liverpool. In this new role, he will lead the charity’s award-winning exhibition programme, and care for the museum’s outstanding collection of painting, decorative interiors, furniture and porcelain. His work will further Harewood’s purpose to make heritage relevant, using the collections and landscape to help shape a more sustainable world, unlock people’s creativity and enrich lives.

Over the past five years, Harewood has received universal recognition for its innovative programming including the Harewood Biennial alongside its new Craft Spotlight and Open History series addressing the urgent issues of our time from equality, diversity and inclusion, and social and environmental issues prevalent in society today. Darren has worked across exhibitions that have featured many of today’s leading artists, has toured major exhibitions for Tate Liverpool around the world, and has commissioned several new works. Most recently, his Radical Landscapes exhibition explores climate emergency, trespass and social and cultural change through a century of landscape art – an exhibition which shares Harewood’s values entirely.

With a history of collections care and producing exhibitions closely linked to Harewood’s programming ambitions, trustee of Harewood House Trust Iwona Blazwick OBE commented:

‘Pih’s deep engagement with modern and contemporary art will bring a dynamic new perspective to Harewood, connecting its distinguished history of arts patronage with the present. I can’t wait to see what his curatorial vision will contribute – not only to Harewood’s great legacy but the wider Yorkshire art scene’.

Since 2017, Harewood – which reached a record-breaking 250,000 visitors in 2021 – has been pushing the boundaries of its programming under the leadership of Jane Marriott, building on the Trust’s and the Lascelles’ commitment to acknowledging the estate’s colonial past for over 30 years, and exploring and provoking conversation around societal issues that affect us all. This commitment remains stronger than ever and is central to the Trust’s programming aims, the work of its staff and volunteers, and working with the communities in and around Leeds.

Trust Director Jane Marriott comments of Darren’s appointment:

‘I am delighted to welcome Darren as Harewood’s first Chief Curator and Artistic Director. This role epitomises our ambitions to reimagine the country house for the 21st century with bold, exciting and innovative programming. Darren brings a thoughtful approach and excellent track record, in combining the care of historic collections with the work of contemporary artists, in order to develop our ambitions as a charity and museum.’

Darren Pih’s first major exhibition under his curatorial lead will be Harewood’s second Craft Spotlight, to be announced later this year, and a Harewood ‘year of play’ to coincide with Leeds 2023 celebrations. On his appointment, he said:

‘I am delighted to be joining Harewood and contributing to its ambitions by leading its exhibitions programme. Harewood and its history make it a unique site for presenting art and ideas that engage with many of the most urgent issues of our time, including environmental responsibility, colonialism and social inclusion. It’s a fantastic opportunity to create new knowledge around its collections, by bringing contemporary and modern art into dialogue with the heritage and history of Harewood.’

Download the full press release including editor’s notes >> 

‘The Royal Avenue’ at Harewood

Earlier this week on the North Front, Harewood’s longest serving gardener of 34 years, Paul Slater, planted a young oak tree, which was grown in the Walled Garden from a seed collected in the grounds of Harewood. It was planted in honour of Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, as part of The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative, which has the aim of creating a network of trees, avenues, copices and woodlands in honour of The Queen’s 70 years of service. The tree commemorates not only Her Majesty’s personal legacy but also marks the start of its own green legacy within Harewood’s parkland. 

Picture of Paul planting the Jubilee tree (far left), 2022.

The oldest picture of Paul we could find in the archive (far right).

But the planting of trees – and particularly those with a connection to the Royal Family – has a long tradition at Harewood. It was one started by the first ever royal visitor to Harewood, the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia, later Tsar Nicholas I, in 1816. The 2nd Countess of Harewood recorded the occasion in a letter to her sister, describing the Duke’s “dextrous” use of a spade to plant two young oaks in front of the House. She also noted that the whole affair had been inspired by the fact that the Grand Duke had planted two oaks at Chatsworth – clearly the Lascelles family could not be outdone by their ducal counterparts in Derbyshire!

 

Edward VII, Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria pictured on the steps of Harewood House, July 1908.

However, the tradition of royal tree planting at Harewood really took off in the 20th century, with the visit of King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra and their daughter Princess Victoria in 1908. Their overnight stay at Harewood was the result of an official visit to Leeds, where the King opened a new building at the University of Leeds; Harewood House had been “re-beautified” for their arrival and a concert planned for the evening’s entertainment. Before leaving the next day, the Royal party each planted a tree “on the lawn near the one planted long ago by Emperor Nicholas I.” King Edward VII and Princess Victoria both planted chestnuts, and Queen Alexandra a Daimyo oak. In fact, the historic collection at Harewood still contains the very spade used to plant the trees.

 

View of Harewood House with Daimyo Oak planted by Queen Alexandra

The next major royal event for the Lascelles family – and one that changed the course of Harewood’s history for ever – was the engagement of Henry, Viscount Lascelles (later 6th Earl of Harewood) to Princess Mary, daughter of King George V and Queen Mary in November 1921. The engagement announcement was quickly followed by Princess Mary and her mother’s first visit to Harewood, who were enthusiastically welcomed by the people of Yorkshire. To commemorate the occasion, both Marys planted a tree on the North Front. 

 

Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles

Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles outside Harewood House on the occasion of Princess Mary’s first visit to Harewood, 1921.

 

From that moment on, the close family links between Harewood and the Royal Family prompted a regular series of royal tree planting due to a high frequency of family visits. Indeed, the ring of trees that can still be enjoyed today around the back of the North Front – mainly made up of Cedars of Lebanon – was formed as a result of this tradition. The planting of cedars specifically appears to have started in 1923 by Prince Edward (later King Edward VIII), who planted a young tree not far from the iconic Copper Beech that stands directly opposite the front door of the House (planted by the 6th Earl respectively to commemorate his coming of age).  By the early 1930s, one newspaper reported that a “Royal Avenue…was growing promisingly” at Harewood and that it was steadily “assuming an imposing appearance”. 

 

Trees encircling the North Front at Harewood. Photo credit: Robert Kay

 

Over the next two decades, cedar trees were planted by almost all senior members of the British royal family, often on several occasions, including King George V, Queen Mary, Prince Edward (later King Edward VIII), the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth), Prince Henry (the Duke of Gloucester), Prince George (the Duke of Kent) and Princess Alice (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria). On one occasion, King George V had to plant his tree by proxy due to bad weather: 

“At noon there was no slackening of the downpour… but a tree was planted after all. That came about through the suggestion of the King. He saw his grandsons, two sturdy, active boys, and then said “Why should they not plant the tree?”. The two boys [George and Gerald Lascelles] jumped at the idea. Receiving permission, they rushed off to Abbott, the chief forester, and secured a car to take them to the selected spot. There they carried out the deputised task with great gusto. “It was” said a spectator, “a first class job”. That done, the two boys returned triumphantly to the House and presently sat down to tea at which the chief guest was “grandfather”. 

 

Cedars on the North Front, looking back towards the House. Photo credit: Trevor Nicholson

 

The post-war years of the late 1940s and 50s, brought the next generation of royals to Harewood, as well as a new location for tree planting – the showfield, just beyond the church, each tree cited to form another ‘avenue’. In 1949, Princess Elizabeth stayed at Harewood for a three day Tour of Yorkshire, visiting various Yorkshire cities, landmarks and events, such as the Great Yorkshire Show, Roundhay Park and York Minster. To commemorate the occasion, she and Prince Philip both planted a sweet chestnut. Almost a decade later in 1958 – this time as Queen – Elizabeth planted another young tree nearby. 

HM The Queen planting a tree in the showfield at Harewood in 1958. © Johnson Press plc

The Queen’s trees at Harewood, as well as those planted on other occasions by her sister and mother, can today still be seen on site. Like many commemorative trees, they embody memories of particular moments in history, but they also form an enduring symbol of the relationship between Harewood and the royal family.