Updates on Priory Gatehouse Restoration

Infill to medieval wall next to the gatepost

June 2018: Completion of current restoration phase 4

The final stage of Phase 4 was signed off in the summer 2018. The medieval stonework within the archway has been stripped of its cement render. The old cement was raked out between the stones prior to being pointed with lime mortar. Four holes were exposed on either side of the walls which the archaeological report suggested were putlogs (scaffolding holes) from an earlier time. Other deep gaps that had been packed with old stone and tile pieces were cleaned out and tile sections were neatly embedded. Repairs to the lead windows upstairs were also carried out. We are most grateful to the Pilgrim Trust for their generous grant towards the cost of this work.

Stone post-pad under the eastern gate post timber

June 2016: Gatepost repair

The restoration / repair at the foot of the gatepost was completed, 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 suggested 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 was completed.  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.

Restored layout of drainpipes on Tudor (south) side of Gatehouse
Restored layout of drainpipes on Tudor (south) side of Gatehouse

The east door was sticking against the floor.  The fixings of the door frame had been damaged by water soaking into the wall (from the damaged downpipes). This in turn had rusted fixing nails and rotted away the wooden fixings.  The door frame was reset, properly vertical, with long steel bolts epoxied into the stonework.   Both exterior doors were treated with  boiled linseed oil, as a preservative. 

As a final item, areas of damaging cement-based mortar were removed alongside one of the gate posts, prior to replacement by more appropriate lime-based mortars.  This revealed the great depth of the post, about 17 inches thick, but also its poor condition at the base. Here a large piece of wood, previously hidden within the wall, had rotted and broken away.  An urgent repair to the bottom of the post will be undertaken, using a new piece of oak.

November 2015

Scaffolding on the south side on the Gatehouse
Scaffolding on the south side of the Priory Gatehouse

Phase 3 of the Priory Gatehouse restoration began. 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.

Funding for this phase of work came 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 was raised through museum fundraising events and funds ring-fenced for restoration by the museum.  

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

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.

Conservation of south side of Priory Gatehouse, April 2013

Phase 2

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

After the retirement of the lead architect from in 2013, another survey was carried out in January 2014 by his successor. Based on a detailed specification, the revised estimated cost for the remaining restoration was increased substantially, to a figure approaching £250,000. The Museum trustees met with the architect and agreed the works to be carried out in at least two phases:

Phase 3

The content of this phase was determined by the urgency of repairing the rainwater goods (made worse by several wet winters), and the likely level of funding that would be available. It would also see some of the masonry restored around the doorways, (and replaced where necessary, using stone from the original quarries used in 1891), some conservation of joinery on the south elevation, and a re-routing of drainage on the north side. Scheduled Monument Consent is required and will be submitted by late Spring 2014. This phase was expected to cost in the region of £100,000.

Phase 4

This phase began in 2015 with the intention of completing 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.

The conservation of such an important building has added significantly to the understanding of its historic and architectural significance. The trustees recommended a dendrochronology survey as part of this vision, but this has not been undertaken yet (2019). A new leaflet has been produced to incorporate the latest findings and is on sale at the museum.

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 launched a programme of fundraising activities.  Their hard work was very successful, and in addition to raising several thousand pounds towards the Phase 2 conservation, they 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 grants covered 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. A further grant of £10,000 was generously awarded by Garfield Weston, which made possible the completion of restoring the stonework in 2018.