Updates on Priory Gatehouse Restoration
June 2016: Latest news
The restoration / repair at the foot of the gatepost is now complete, with the rotten wood cut out and a new section of green oak inserted. Removal of the bottom of the post exposed a stone post-pad with a rectangular socket cut out to accept a tenon joint on the wooden post (shown below). The rubble fill of the wall behind the post included a fragment of a narrow 13th century column, perhaps from the monastic cloister arcade, and a large fragment of 15th century encaustic floor tile. Archaeological assessment suggests that the present gateposts date from the late-Tudor period, since the cross beam is decorated with ‘lamb’s-tongue’ chamfer stops, typical of the period.
February 2016: Update on Gatehouse Restoration
Work on phase 3 of the restoration project is complete. The Victorian cast-iron rainwater goods on the south elevation of the building (the Abbey Hotel side) were taken down, assessed and reused where possible. However in most cases they were in such a poor state that they had to be replaced with new castings. You will note that the layout of the downpipes is now slightly different, in a more symmetrical arrangement, and very similar to the layout of 100 years ago. Less noticeable in the photos, but in a very time-consuming job, the Tudor brickwork has been repointed across the whole wall. Four decayed stones have been replaced, two in the first floor windows, and two by the stewards’ door.
Another change will be noted by museum stewards. The back door now opens easily, and does not stick against the floor. The fixings of the door frame had been damaged by water soaking into the wall (from the damaged downpipes), which had rusted fixing nails and rotted away the wooden fixings. The door frame has been reset, properly vertical, with long steel bolts epoxied into the stonework. Both exterior doors have been treated with boiled linseed oil, as a preservative. There is still work to be done inside the rear lobby, plastering and redecorating, but this will now have to await a future phase of the restoration, and new funding.
As a final item, areas of damaging cement-based mortar have been removed alongside one of the gate posts, prior to replacement by more appropriate lime-based mortars. This has revealed the great depth of the post, about 17 inches thick, but also its poor condition at the base, where a large piece of wood, previously hidden within the wall has rotted and broken away. An urgent repair to the bottom of the post will be undertaken, using a new piece of oak.
Phase 3 of the Priory Gatehouse restoration has begun! Scaffolding on the south face (red brick Tudor side) went up on 5th November. A site meeting with the architect, Historic England, the contractors Treasure & Sons Ltd, and several museum officers took place on Monday 9th November and work began on 11th November.
The cast-iron Victorian downpipes and gutters will be repaired (where possible) or replaced with new sections of ironwork. Damaged stonework and brick will be replaced and re-pointed, and the carved wooden eaves will be conserved. Where water has penetrated through the wall and into the building, the walls will be re-plastered with traditional lime materials and a damaged door frame will be repaired.
Scaffolding on the south side on the Priory Gatehouse
Funding for this phase of work has come from a number of very generous grants from William Cadbury Charitable Trust (£15,000), Pilgrim Trust (£20,000) and Allchurches Trust (£1,500). The remainder has been raised through museum fundraising events and funds ring-fenced for restoration by the museum. Work at the Priory Gatehouse should take approximately 10 weeks.
Restoration of the Priory Gatehouse
Restoration has taken place regularly over the last 120 years. A major refurbishment of the north side was undertaken in 1891. The front was resurfaced and a new battlement was added. Two rooms were added on the west end which removed the symmetry of the building, and separate rooms were created within the gatehouse.
Late 20th Century Repairs
Although repairs had been carried out after the ice cream van had become wedged in the archway in 1979, the trustees of Malvern Museum remained concerned about the general condition of several features of the Gatehouse. In 1982 a survey of the Gatehouse was carried out. It recommended 3 phases of remedial work totalling over £40,000. The following year urgent work on windows was carried out costing over £1,000 and in 1987 a further £4,000 was spent repairing the roof. Finally in 1992, damp proofing and stonework restoration was carried out on the north and south sections, totalling over £20,000. Generous grants from English Heritage and the Paul Getty Fund made the work possible, along with several thousands of pounds raised by the Friends of the Museum.
21st Century Restoration Programme
In 2008 English Heritage undertook another inspection, and confirmed that, ‘no immediate repairs are required’, preferring to wait for the natural disintegration of cement mortar before replacing it with lime mortar.
When fragments of stonework became loose, the museum trustees once again approached English Heritage in 2012 for an assessment of the stonework, roof, gutters and mullion windows. The survey was carried out by Caroe and Stainburn of Ledbury. They proposed a multi-phase restoration programme over the next 5-10 years.
Phase 1 covered the urgent repairs and these were implemented in January 2102. The museum paid over £3000, which included the cost of the building specifications and surveyors fees. A further £600 has been found for the repairs to 3 leaded windows.
The second phase of urgent repairs and restoration of the gatehouse was completed in May 2013, costing £10,000. Work included:
- Cleaning moss from the stonework on the north elevation
- Repairs to roof tiles and drainage behind the north parapet
- Repair and replacement of stones on the north-east corner
- Protection for medieval tiles at the top of the east wall
- Cleaning and decoration of wooden gables on the south elevation
- Repair and painting of iron finials on the roof
- Repair to the blocked and broken cast iron downpipe to the right of the gateway to help keep damp out of the building
This phase will be addressed over the next 5 years or so. It will complete the restoration of stonework, the repair and renovation of the south roof and gables, and provide protection for the medieval tiles on the upper east elevation.
It is envisaged that the the conservation of such an important building will be supported with the development of educational material about the building, based on its historic and architectural significance. The trustees have recommended a dendrochronology survey as part of this vision, and several museum volunteers have expressed an interest in being trained to carry out some of the less skilled work.
Priory Gatehouse Fundraising News
In 2013, the trustees successfully applied for two large grants from the Foyle Foundation and Malvern Town Council. Both donated £5,000 which went a long way to cover the cost of the 2013 conservation. Other funding bodies have been approached for grants towards the larger cost of Phases 3 and 4.
Meanwhile a number of museum officers have launched a programme of fundraising activities. Their hard work has been highly successful already, and in addition to raising several thousand pounds towards the Phase 2 conservation, they have succeeded in raising awareness of the significance of the ancient Gatehouse as well as the work of Malvern Museum.
More recently, we have been delighted to receive £15,000 from the William Cadbury Trust and £20,000 from the Pilgrim Trust. These will go a long way to covering the cost of replacement stones near the two entrances and the repair of the leaking downpipes on the southern aspect. The Friends of Malvern Museum were also pleased to donate £1,000 to the 3rd phase of restoration of the Priory Gatehouse.
If you wish to support the fundraising efforts spearheaded by Malvern Museum, there are several ways of doing this. The easiest is using the BTMyDonate button that can be found on every page of the website. This is a secure form of payment and allows for Gift Aid if appropriate. Check out our fundraising activities too, and support the events whenever possible.