CONTRACTORS working in the grounds of Syon Park are feeling red-faced after accidentally demolishing part of the historic wall which surrounds the estate belonging to the Duke of Northumberland.
The dramatic incident happened around noon yesterday (Thursday) when a work crew were cutting the grass close to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the grounds.
Somehow the vehicle struck part of the 1,000 metre-long, two metre high boundary wall which was Grade II listed by English Heritage in 1994 and was thought to have been laid out in the 1750s.
The knock caused a large section of stone and brick work to collapse onto the pavement of the adjacent London Road.
Fortunately no-one was walking past at the time.
The park includes Syon House itself which is owned by the 12th Duke Ralph Percy and was once an abbey and also the prison of King Henry VIII’s fifth wife Catherine Howard before her execution on charges of adultery in 1542.
Leslie Feore, House Manager & Administrator, said of the accident: "Firstly the Estate would like to say how say glad we are that no one was hurt. A contractor’s vehicle struck the wall which then fell out on the pavement along London Road.
"Our structural engineer has inspected the wall and it has been made safe. The wall which we believe is around 200 years old, will be rebuilt using traditional methods."
The section demolished runs from the delivery entrance of the hotel towards the famous Lion Gate designed by Robert Adam, which is only one of two left in the country, but luckily has escaped any damage.
One witness to the aftermath said: “It’s a bit of a shock to see it looking like that - you can now see all the way to the house from the main road.”
Local historian and Chronicle columnist Eddie Menday was dismayed by the news of the destruction.
He said: “I can’t imagine how something like that can happen, I’m appalled. I sincerely hope they can keep the bricks and rebuild it using them. We can ill-afford to lose such a vital piece of our local heritage.”
The estate would not comment on the cost of repair, but is likely to be a fairly expensive project given the significance of the wall and the Grade II listing.