The recently uncovered hidden story of Oxfordshire estate, Blenheim Palace

The recently uncovered hidden story of Oxfordshire estate, Blenheim Palace

In Oxfordshire, England,  Blenheim Palace stands tall and regal, the beautiful 18th-century estate, that houses a wealth of history.  The palace has been called “the real Downton Abbey” and you can see why. A monumental country home in the small village of Blenheim where people have been visiting since 1722. The architectural design is that of English Baroque and it was during World War I that the palace was turned into a hospital for any of the wounded soldiers. The palace and its estate is classed as a “true national treasure.” The name given to this outstanding building shows how special it is, after all not just any old place is given a name with “palace” incorporated. It is the only non-royal house in England with the title. During recent restoration works, something ancient was uncovered and no one can quite believe it. After all this time, it seems there were certain things about the palace that were not passed on to the next generation.

Country Estate

Nestled in Oxfordshire England, the stunning estate has been visited by people for decades. It was in October 2018, that restoration work began to take place, during which time, something unknown was discovered. When they unearthed this ancient old mystery, an astonishing story unfolded.

Country Estate

Surrounding the palace, the Grand Bridge has been graced with one of the most eloquent titles, “the finest view in England”. The order of the restoration works was requested to revive the area back to its former glory. The project was set to cost a staggering $15 million! But what was lurking underneath its foundations?

What Could It Be?

Of course, nothing but the best was needed for this breathtaking 18th-century structure. Unbeknownst to the workers and architect on site at the time, there was something lurking beneath the Grand Bridge, and it surprised more than just them.

What Could It Be?

Blenheim Palace was built in the early 18th Century to celebrate a magnificent victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession. It was specifically built as a gift to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill. But what did he do to be awarded such a grand prize?

Battle Of Blenheim

John Churchill was the military commander who led the Allied forces in the Battle of Blenheim on 13th August 1704. Following the battle, Marlborough himself received the surrender from Marshal Tallard, leader of the French forces.

Battle Of Blenheim

To honor the Duke’s victories, Queen Anne rewarded him the ruined Royal Manor of Woodstock, along with £240,000 with which he could build a house to commemorate his achievements… And what a house he did build, that years later a secret would be revealed.

Prime Minister Of Britain

Blenheim Palace became a popular spot once Winston Churchill had become the Prime Minister of Britain – as he was born here in 1874. Did the Churchill family know about this new find? Or were they the ones to hide it?

Prime Minister Of Britain

The Grand Bridge was given its charming title by Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill. As with most of the outstanding dated buildings in England, Blenheim had been passed down through prestigious family ties.

Palace Development

The Duke and Duchess of Marlborough currently reside there and it was in 1708, that an architect named Sir John Vanbrugh was assigned a very trusted job. He was to develop the palace. What were his plans?

Palace Development

After much thorough planning, Vanbrugh began to execute his plan to develop a “habitable viaduct” inside the grounds of the estate. The construction would take around two years to complete and so it was in 1710 that the Grand Bridge, sometimes known as theVanbrugh Bridge, would be revealed. Although there were some who opposed his plans.

The Dukes

The palace has been passed on from each Duke of Marlborough to the next. Currently living in the wonderful home is Charles James Spencer-Churchill, who goes by the name, Jamie.

The Dukes

With the given title of the 12th Duke of Marlborough, Jamie succeeded the Dukedom following his father’s passing in October 2014. To pay respects to its name, whoever is living in the palace has to tender the French Royal flag each year.

Lord Churchill

The flag is raised on the anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim. The residents remain active in the areas of the palace that are open to visitors. Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill, who is the brother to the current Duke, has a strong tie to the palace and organizes many art exhibitions.

Lord Churchill

When the recent discovery was made, all those close to the building couldn’t believe that, after all this time, the secret find never came to light.

Too Ambitious

The First Duchess of Marlborough was the first person to speak out againstVanbrugh’s plans, deeming them expensive and too ambitious. However, the Duchess did not speak out until after he had completed the Grand Bridge and with that, he was banned from the grounds, leaving his architectural piece unfinished.

Too Ambitious

As well as being chosen as the architect for Blenheim Palace, Vanbrugh was also famously known for his work on Castle Howard. Not only an architect, but he was also a dramatist and wrote a couple of argumentative comedies titled The Provoked Wife and The Relapse.

Vanbrugh

It was later on in his life that he became an architect and still to this day, no one is quite sure why he chose such a dramatically different career path. Those around him were quoted saying, “Van’s genius, without thought or lecture, is hugely turn’d to architecture.”

Vanbrugh

Perhaps it was Vanbrugh’s lack of qualification or experience that swayed the Duchess’ mind when it came to his work on Blenheim Palace. It was said, that during a prison stint in France, he spent time admiring architect Louis Le Vau’s work.

Eye For Detail

Although he lacked experience, it was certain that he had an exceptional eye for detail and perspective. The Grand Bridge stood strong, and despite the disagreement, Vanbrugh was proud that some of his work remained, but it didn’t last for long.

Eye For Detail

As time moved on, it was fifty-eight years later that another architect was selected to work on the grounds, but this time, with the task of adding several lakes to the area. How would he do it?

Lake Creation

The project was awarded to Lancelot “Capability” Brown and little did he know back then, he would be making history all these years later. Wondering how he would be able to add several lakes to the grounds, Brown had an idea, he would flood the inside area of the Grand Bridge to create a lake.

Lake Creation

As part of the 160-acre lake project, Brown sure met the demands with his vision but it was in that moment history was lost – without anyone knowing anything about it. The area inside of the bridge had gone, never to be seen again, until now that is.

Man Made Lakes

As time passed, the water began to damage the Grand Bridge and we can tell you how. The man-made lakes were named the Queen Pool and the Great Lake, and over time, they have begun to dry out. What would they have to do to fix the problem?

Man Made Lakes

With the structure of the bridge being surrounded by water for so long, it had now become dependent on it, and as the water drained away, the bridge was no longer secure. So where did the water go?

Skilled Engineers

As the water drifted away from the Bridge, experts explained the reason behind it, and it was down to a build-up of silt, a process that had been happening for decades. How would they fix it?

The only way to secure the area would be to have skilled engineers pull 400,00 tons of silt out of the lake beds, restoring it to the depth it was back in the 18th century.

Difficult Task

Experts started the difficult task by installing multiple dams, siphons, and groundwater wells to begin lowering the water. To enable them to examine the foundations of the bridge, the water needed to be reduced by six and a half feet.

Difficult Task

And it was there, that an 18th-century secret was revealed. This discovery was a pivotal life-changing moment in history.

His Plan Was Hidden

During Vanbrugh’s time and his plan of a “habitable viaduct”, he had designed something extraordinary. Without his work ever being passed on, and little attention paid to it, no one knew exactly what his plans entailed.

His Plan Was Hidden

There, hiding beneath the water, inside of the Grand Bridge for all this time, was something nobody expected to find. Amazingly, submerged by water, there were thirty rooms.