Behind the scenes at Blenheim Palace, from the £40m leaky roof to towing visitors stuck in muddy fields

Emily Spencer of Blenheim Palace joins the Country Life Podcast to give a glimpse in to what it takes to keep a UNESCO World Heritage site up and running with 6,000 visitors a day coming through the hallowed halls.

Beyond the Monarchy and the Church, there is only one building in Britain which is designated with word ‘palace’: Blenheim Palace.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is beyond any doubt one of the world’s greatest, and most famous buildings. It was built to commemorate a famous battle 320 years ago: the victory in the Battle of Blenheim led by John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, in which the army of Louis XIV was beaten in what was France’s first major military defeat in half a century.

Queen Anne was delighted by the outcome of the Battle of Blenheim, and granted Churchill — an ancestor of Sir Winston Churchill — both the land and the funds to create a grand house which, from the start, was planned as both ancestral home and national monument.

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Three centuries later, the house and gardens — designed by Sir John Vanbrugh and Capability Brown respectively — are just as magnificent today, and one of the most visited buildings in Britain, with as many as 6,000 people a day visiting.

Keeping a great house like this running is no easy feat, as Blenheim’s director of operations Emily Spencer explains in this episode of the Country Life Podcast.

‘It’s an ongoing battle,’ Emily explains of the need to balance restoration, conservation and the needs of visitors, from the £40 million project in place to keep the building standing to towing visitors’ cars out of muddy fields.

But the efforts are all worthwhile, Emily adds.

‘The second you step across the landscape, it’s everything — it all has such a power over you.’

Episode credits

  • Host: James Fisher
  • Guest: Emily Spencer
  • Producer and editor: Toby Keel
  • Music: JuliusH via Pixabay
  • Special thanks: Adam Wilbourn