Celebrating Stowe

With Purcell UK

First, A word of thanks

The Messenger team was absolutely delighted when they received an invitation to be a part of the ‘Purcell Day Out’.

Recognising that some of you may be interested in learning about the extensive projects they have overseen at Stowe throughout their long careers, the attending team came up with an exciting idea to present this information in a fun and innovative way.

A QR code to deliver their collective Stowe journey, on a scale rule nonetheless, something actually of use.

Ian Bird

Regional Director, Staffordshire Office

First to take the stage is Ian Bird who holds a deep connection to Stowe House, where he has dedicated most of his working career. It is a place that holds a special fondness within his heart, often referred to as…

The project of my lifetime

Ian's Journey

Ian’s journey at Stowe House began with overseeing ‘Phase 2’, a significant external works scheme involving the roof and three elevations of the main house. This included the erection of a major scaffold and temporary roof designed to preserve the house’s overall appearance, considering that the front elevation had just been completed under ‘Phase 1’ by a previous contractor, Mowlem Rattee & Kett.

The project encompassed various tasks, such as re-roofing the central mansion, replacing stonework on the South Elevation and Portico, upgrading landings and steps, and conserving the entire Marble Saloon. It was the largest and most daunting project Ian had ever been associated with, making it a truly challenging endeavour.

North Elevation

South Elevation

Marble Saloon

Conserving the entire Marble Saloon was the largest and most daunting project Ian had ever been associated with, making it a truly challenging endeavour.

Since then, Ian has undertaken numerous conservation and restoration projects at Stowe House, collaborating with professional teams and specialist contractors. Some of the notable areas he has been involved with or managed include:

  • Conservation of the Music Room floor
  • Complete conservation and restoration of the Library and Ante Library
  • Conservation and restoration of the Blue Room
  • Remodelling of existing basement areas to create a new visitor attraction, museum area, and café
  • Restoration of the rear gardens and stone boundary walls, including the installation of copper urns
  • Relocation of the ‘concrete’ lions from the South Steps to their new home at the Church, and the subsequent work to bring the original lions back to the South Steps
  • Conservation and restoration of the North Hall walls and floor
  • Various small works, such as supplying and fitting urns to the South Portico and lifting and relaying the East Lobby floor
  • Full repair and restoration of the Temple Room and State Dining Room


Although major works at Stowe House are nearing completion, there are still a few pending projects. The laying of a new floor in the West Lobby is soon to be finished, and there is hope for involvement in the restoration of the Small Dining Room if funding can be secured in the near future.

Reflecting on his time at Stowe, Ian is struck by the fact that:

When he started, he was unmarried and without children, whereas now his daughter has completed her A levels and moved on from school.

It is a testament to the enduring nature of his work at Stowe House.

Blue Room

Fred Markland


Let us now introduce Fred Markland. Fred’s Stowe journey began in 2002, working on National Trust garden buildings and monuments in the Landscape Gardens for E Bowman & Sons, Stamford.

Initially, they focused on the two Lake Pavilions and subsequently worked on various other structures, including the Corinthian Arch, Buckingham Lodges, and the monument to King George II, among others.

In 2013, Fred Markland transitioned to the role of a Building Surveyor for the London and Southeast region of the National Trust, with Stowe Landscape Gardens as the principal property.

This role lasted for 7½ years and provided numerous opportunities to work on the diverse array of buildings and monuments in the gardens.

Notable achievements during this period included the consolidation of the Temple of Friendship and the creation of the Circle of the Dancing Faun. Fred also witnessed the construction of the Saxon Altar, undertaken by stonemasons from Messenger Construction, who have been involved with Stowe since the Trust first embarked on the monumental task of restoring the gardens.

Matthew Webster

Conservation Director

A further member of the Messenger team, who isn’t at the Purcell Day Out, however has been involved with numerous projects at Stowe House is Matthew Webster. Matthew is our Conservation Director, and also shares his experience with Stowe House, spanning over 30 years.

Matt’s initial involvement was in the restoration of the north front and quality control for the render finishes. He worked extensively on the Marble Saloon, securing plaster details within the coffered dome and the impressive plaster frieze.

North Entrance Hall

His contributions extended to the Music, Egyptian, and Blue Rooms, as well as the North Entrance Hall, Headmaster’s Office, Chapel high-level render and cornice, and South Parterre railings and balustrade walling.

Matthew has been instrumental in providing design solutions, initial consultations, and close collaboration with funders, stakeholders, advisory committees, and building users. Stowe House remains one of the country’s finest buildings, and Matthew continues to derive immense pleasure from visiting it.

Music and Egyptian Rooms

Temple Room

And to the Future

As you can tell, Ian, Fred, and Matthew have a compelling bond with Stowe, and their commitment to its preservation is unmatched. With their expertise and experience, they are invaluable to Messenger. They take pride in their work and aim to maintain Stowe’s architectural excellence. Messenger aspires to be the preferred contractor for Stowe for years to come, continuing its legacy with passion and dedication.

The Messenger team greatly value the collaborative partnership they enjoy with Purcell. Working together, they find that their collective efforts are enhanced, resulting in even better outcomes for Stowe. By combining their strengths and working hand-in-hand, Messenger and Purcell will undoubtedly strive to achieve the highest standards of excellence in preserving and enhancing the beauty of Stowe.

More about Messenger

If you would like to find out more about Messenger and our other projects, please visit: messengerbcr.co.uk


Architectural photography by Nick Farka, Red and Round Photography: redandround.co.uk