Over the ensuing 37 years following William Shenstone's death The Leasowes passed through eight different ownership's. Sadly, during this time the garden declined and today little remains of Shenstone's famous 'ferme ornee'. Since 1934 when Halesowen Council (later to become Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council) purchased The Leasowes the site has been managed as a public park.
In 1906 an 18-hole golf course was laid out by Halesowen Golf Club who brought parts of the site. The golf course still remains today although the land is now owned by the Council and leased to the Golf Club.
In 1997 the Council's wish to restore The Leasowes was bought closer to fruition when the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) awarded £1.3 million for the restoration work. Further funding from Dudley Council created a total budget of £1.75 million for The Leasowes Restoration Project. Since the original award from HLF the scope of the project has undergone careful re-evaluation and the intention is now to concentrate the current available funding on completing the restoration of the section of the North Valley which Shenstone named Virgil's Grove. This work will form Phase 1 of the Restoration Project.
With its steep tree covered valley sides, footpaths and seats offering views down to pools, flowing streams and cascades, Vigil's Grove epitomised much of Shenstone's philosophy on gardening.
The restoration of Virgil's Grove began in early 1999 with Beechwater Pool situated at the top of the North Valley. This was followed by a woodland management contract, which restored the tree planting to its historic design and opened up views to the proposed restoration features.
Extensive archaeological investigations and information provided from archive material, including Shenstone's own paintings of The Leasowes, provided the information to enable designs to be drawn up for the full restoration of Virgil's Grove. Phase 1 of the Restoration Project will include the reconstruction of Beechwater Dam at the top of Virgil's Grove and recreation of two pools, linked by a series of cascades, in the valley. The footpaths will be laid out as Shenstone's original design, paths and bridges of later construction will be removed. New tree and shrub planting will also be carried out; this will reflect the historic planting, which was originally laid out by Shenstone.
The challenge for the restoration design team has been one of complying with current legislation and statutory approvals whilst balancing modern day construction methods with the important historic requirements of the site. This has proved to be a long and demanding process which has necessitated a delay in the programme. We currently anticipate that work will commence on site winter 2006.
In addition, a further contract for the woodland and aquatic planting will be let with work taking place in December 2008