Villa Frere, built on the Pieta slopes facing Valletta, was an Englishman’s folly. Put together by John Hookham Frere over a span of many years until his death in 1846, Villa Frere is today a shadow of its once majestic composition of terraced gardens.
The Friends of Villa Frere was set up some years ago by Edward Said with a purpose to salvage the remnants of this once stately estate now comprising of a third of its original footprint.
The Alfred Mizzi Foundation heeded a call for help and with its support, the return and restoration of a well-head from Casa Leoni in Sta. Venera (where this had been moved to for safe keeping some sixty years ago) as well as the restoration of part of a grand staircase just below the Royal Gazebo was embarked upon.
The well-head is one of a series of well-heads known to have stood at Villa Frere. Carved in globigerina limestone, its floral arabesque style so exquisitely executed could very possibly have been produced by the workshop of acclaimed architectural sculptor Vincenzo Dimech (1768-1831).
It was a centre-piece of the upper gardens, sited just in front of the iconic Neo-Classical tempietto and photographed on numerous occasions. It bears the Frere coat-of-arms on its pediment.
The restoration of part of the grand staircase just below the Royal Gazebo will include the realignment of the large softstone steps, removal of damaging roots beneath, replacement of lost or unserviceable elements and the complete replication of the balustrades. In order to proceed with these works, necessary planning permission from the relevant authorities is being sought. Works here are planned to be completed within a year’s time.