Alton Towers Resort have submitted an application seeking listed building consent for repair and making-good works to the rear elevation of The Swiss Cottage, an iconic feature of the Gardens.

The application outlines The Swiss Cottage’s history, dating from 1835, when it was built for the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury, through to its present day status. It was originally designed primarily as a focal point in the gardens, to be viewed from the north side terraces and to resemble an alpine lodge on the valley slopes. Upon being built, it was occupied by a blind welsh harpist called Edward Jervis who was employed by the 16th Earl to play on the terrace of the cottage and also behind the doors of the main house entrance on special occasions. This earnt the cottage the nick name ‘Harper’s Cottage’. From the 1920’s, when Alton Towers became a commercial venue, The Swiss Cottage was then used as a tearoom and later a restaurant. In the 1980’s, an extension was added to the southwest corner to create a more suitable entrance lobby and a large, flat-roofed commercial kitchen was also added to the rear, built up against the rock-faced embankment, to enable its use as the ‘Swiss Cottage Restaurant’, which operated into the early 1990’s.

Recent years have seen the building used for offices, storage and venue space, although it now remains largely vacant. In 2019, following the collapse of the modern felted flat roof to the rear kitchen extension, it was agreed with the local planning authority’s conservation officer that the rear extension would be removed completely, for the original rear elevation to then be restored and repaired. The repair proposals are now being set out in this current application.

The principal works will involve the reinstatement of the former doorway with a new vertical boarded painted timber door and frame, and the reinstatement of a former window opening, including the installation of a new 12-light painted timber, opening casement window. The missing and damaged Hollington sandstone plinth will also be reinstated to match existing, along with the re-pointing of eroded brickwork and replacement of missing and damaged bricks. Redundant extract ventilation ducting and grilles, electrical fittings, cables and brackets will be removed. Missing timber glazing bars to the rear first floor window will be reinstated and new glass fitted. Three other smaller windows will also be repaired and overhauled, and defective timber lintels will be replaced with new. An area of defective roof tiles to the southeast elevation roof will be repaired using salvaged Staffordshire Blue plain clay tiles with new treated timber battens as necessary, and new black-painted cast iron rainwater goods fitted. While all existing rainwater goods and roof coverings will be cleaned of debris.

Although there is currently no formal plan, the application notes that possible future uses for The Swiss Cottage include using it as an estate office, bringing it back into food and beverage use, or possibly opening it as a museum of memorabilia. At the TowersTimes Summer Reunion event earlier this year, Janet Gurr alluded to the latter potential use by indicating that the building could become home to the Alton Towers Archives.

With these planned works following the completion of the Banqueting Hall window’s restoration this season, are you pleased to see the Resort continue with their programme to restore the site’s heritage features? How would you like to see The Swiss Cottage used in the future? Share your thoughts over on the Attraction Source Forum.

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