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Restoration work celebrated in Historic Houses Awards

— 29 Nov 2022


Hartland Abbey completely encased in scaffolding


The enclosed scaffolding roof enabled the works to take place over winter


Topping out – celebrating completion of the works to the roof, with Sir Hugh and Lady Stucley and the rest of the team


The restored roof


Chimney – before and after

3 Hartland before 3 Copy

The mammoth restoration of Hartland Abbey roof has been recognised in the Historic Houses Association Restoration Awards. The project was Highly Commended by the judges, one of two projects to receive the accolade, behind the joint winners of the award, Lytham Hall and Wolterton Park out of a shortlist of sixteen.

The project was a huge undertaking, made possible thanks to a grant from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund; administered through Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The grade I listed Abbey dates from the 12th Century with substantial changes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Large parts of the roof slate had been replaced with corrugated asbestos sheeting and bitumen gutters over the original timber structure in the 1960s. Despite regular maintenance, the roof had reached the end of its effective life with increasing leaks through gutters damaging timber structure and plasterwork below, putting the house and its contents at risk.

The works had to be undertaken over winter to comply with the Culture Recovery Fund tight timeframe, and involved coordination between the ecologist, licencing for the various species of rare bats, and specialist contractors, suppliers and organisations to ensure the conservation works were completed to Historic England’s high standards.

Particular challenges of the project were:

  • Arranging a complete roofed-over scaffold for access and protection during bad weather.
  • Procuring materials for the work, in the light of diminishing global supplies and increasing costs.
  • Reductions in available labour following Covid national and international lockdowns.
  • Balancing bat licencing requirements with the tight timeframe
  • Unseasonably cold Spring weather limiting the ability to complete lime pointing, finishing and plastering.
  • Technically complex stabilisation of a mid-18th Century timber framed wall.
  • Accommodating a 100-person production crew filming the next instalment of Malory Towers for CBBC.

Lady Stucley said of the project: ‘Over 50 local North Devon people, directly and indirectly, were employed … the team worked round the clock to the highest standards imaginable. Bats, so inherent at the Abbey, were given 5 star accommodation! We now have, thanks to Historic Houses for making its members originally aware of this fund and the government funding thereafter, an historic house which is watertight with a most impeccably restored roof, most probably as it was in the Georgian period when the house was updated with its Strawberry Hill Gothic façade...

It is fantastic that the hard work of everyone involved has been recognised; scaffolders, Advanced Scaffolding, main contractors, Heddon Mill Ltd, Roofing contractors, Jamie Brown Roofing and specialists Heritage Cob and Lime; and Jonathan Rhind Architects are delighted to have been part of the team to make it happen.

To read more about the project see our previous blog here

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