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Old barns in Exbury transformed into gallery by de Rothschilds



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A FORMER goat barn in Exbury has been lovingly transformed into a permanent art gallery where New Forest creators can showcase their works.

The painstaking project has taken around 18 months to complete, having been masterminded by artists Caroline de Rothschild and her photographer husband Nicholas, who is president of the nearby Exbury Gardens.

The space has been restored by a local team of workers and craftspeople, and is also large enough to accommodate 150 guests for weddings and functions.

Palais des Vaches has been restored from derelict agricultural buildings by Nicholas and Carloine De Rothschild (50030621)
Palais des Vaches has been restored from derelict agricultural buildings by Nicholas and Carloine De Rothschild (50030621)

The collection of barns dates back 150 years but have not been actively used for farming since the 1970s.

It was last used to keep goats and later became a venue for pop-up exhibitions showcasing work by New Forest artists.

The venue has been named Palais des Vaches – the French translation of its old nickname, “the cow palace”.

Palais des Vaches has been restored from derelict agricultural buildings by Nicholas and Carloine De Rothschild (50030608)
Palais des Vaches has been restored from derelict agricultural buildings by Nicholas and Carloine De Rothschild (50030608)

Nicholas told the A&T: “The barn was filled with junk and rats. The courtyard was all broken up – it was a real mess.

“One of our aims has always been to provide a place that can offer employment to local people. There are young people living in this area and this could be a great opportunity for them.

“I’m 70 this year and it’s a brand new venture for me. It’s probably a bit crazy but what else are we going to do: sit at home and knit? We have had the most fun doing it and we are excited to see it evolve.”

Palais des Vaches has been restored from derelict agricultural buildings by Nicholas and Carloine De Rothschild (50030600)
Palais des Vaches has been restored from derelict agricultural buildings by Nicholas and Carloine De Rothschild (50030600)

Keen to use the space to help her artist friends, Caroline added: “First of all we decided we would use the space to put on a show for some of our friends and to showcase local artists, and that was very successful. We sold lots of paintings and everyone enjoyed being involved.”

It became part of the annual Hampshire Open Studios showcase but in the winter months was unusable because of the cold and damp.

Caroline said: “Initially we thought, let’s put in some heating – and it just snowballed from there. We went from cobbling together an art gallery to restoring a grand old building.”

Air source heat pumps and underfloor heating were added along with an event kitchen, toilets and courtyard area for outdoor dining.

A new balcony overlooks a meadow garden that will be available for luxury camping associated with use of the venue.

Caroline said: “We are so proud of the space we have created. We kept the old tiles to keep it authentic so it’s always a barn without any airs and graces.

“If people want a fancy wedding they can dress it up; if they want a casual event they can keep it simple.”

Nicholas added: “We had a local carpenter from Lepe to do refurbish all the upper windows. Everyone who worked on this was local.”

The venue showcases work by Caroline and many other New Forest artists including Kim Thompson, Stewart Beckett, Paula Mitchell, Tracey Dovey, Paula Norris and sculptor Long Ly.

Caroline said: “Two of our artists have featured in the Sky Arts Portrait and Landscape Artists of the Year, so that is something to shout about. The quality and variety is very impressive.”

It has already hosted a wedding recently and will hold regular private dinning events throughout the year.

In another part of the site a butterfly garden has been created with views over the Solent, which will later become an outdoor sculpture space.

Visit www.palaisdesvaches.co.uk



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