THE Heritage Lottery Fund has announced a £727,000 grant for restoring the formal gardens at historic Witley Court.

Central to the restoration, totalling £970,000, will be the return to full working order of the Grade I listed Perseus and Andromeda fountain.

Work is anticipated to start during the autumn of 2001 and continue until the start of the new visitor season in Easter 2003.

When finished, the owners, English Heritage, believe it will be of national significance as an example of a Victorian country house garden.

The gardens welcome a large number of visitors, who are also drawn by the romantic ruins of the Italianate mansion, abandoned after a devastating fire in 1937.

During the 1800s, Witley was home for the Earl of Dudley, one of Europe's richest men.

The gardens were created by William Andrews Nesfield, one of the great gardener designers of the Victorian age.

The property was put in the hands of English Heritage in 1984 and in July this year it opened the Jerwood Sculpture Park.