STATUES in the water garden of the world heritage site at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal have been restored to their former glory.

The statues have been restored and painted to look like white marble as their original designers intended.

Conservators have carried out restoration work on the four statues in the heart of Studley Royal water garden – Neptune, Bacchus, the Wrestlers and Galen.

Sarah France, World Heritage Site Conservation Manager for the National Trust, said: “During restoration work in the 1980s all traces of the original paint were removed.

"But we know from research, 18th century visitor accounts and historic images that the statues would originally have been painted white. It’s a key objective of the conservation work we do at this World Heritage Site to restore the garden to its original design.”

The work was carried out by Rupert Harris, the leading conservators of metalwork and sculpture in the UK. It took the team four days to return the statues to their original appearance.

In common with other 18th century gardens, Studley Royal’s statues are made of cast lead. White paint was used to imitate a marble finish, mimicking the appearance of stone statues seen on grand tours of Europe, at a fraction of the cost.

The restoration process involved removing modern grey paint using specialist paint stripping equipment and high pressure steam. The surfaces of the statues were then primed and any areas of damage repaired, before two topcoats of an off white paint were applied to give the final marble effect.

Aimee Rawson Marketing Manager at Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal said: “The statues of the Studley Royal water garden would have been key elements in John Aislabie’s original design, creating clear focal points and contrast against their lush green environment.

"Visitors today will once again be wowed by these striking statues in the heart of the garden, as eighteenth century visitors would have been."