Working in partnership, Historic England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund have given support to enable a comprehensive scheme of repair and restoration at Grade II* listed Priory House in Dunstable.
Grant funding of more than £1.2 million has been awarded (£1,142,730 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and an additional £126,970 from Historic England).
Repair and restoration work underway at Priory House
Priory House, which is on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register, is the centrepiece project in the Dunstable High Street Heritage Action Zone, run by Dunstable Town Council and supported by both Historic England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The medieval undercroft of Priory House under repair
The Priory House undercroft – a stone-lined and vaulted medieval cellar used for storage – is a rare and almost complete example of its kind from the 13th century.
Diccon Hart, Director: Archaeology at HB Archaeology and Conservation Ltd revealing brushwood type material overlying the masonry vaulting
It is suffering from environmental and structural issues, including excess dampness and flooding, with movement and cracking in the stonework.
Conservation-accredited structural engineers The Morton Partnership are leading a multidisciplinary team of professionals, including contractors Messenger BCR and subcontractors Cliveden Conservation, who are working to sensitively repair the undercroft, protecting and retaining as much of the original 13th century material as possible.
Owen, work experience student working on stucco repairs and ashlar render
The funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England will support further repair work necessary to conserve the medieval vaults, see the tearooms back in use at full capacity and the first floor exhibition space refreshed and reopened for public events.
Completion of this work is planned for August 2024 when Priory House will be removed from the Heritage at Risk register and will be a vital focus of local community life once again.
Thanks to Maggie Henderson, Director Historic Buildings and Diccon Hart, Director Archaeology at HB Archaeology Conservation Ltd for the on-going archaeological work and research as part of the Priory House project.
Trudi Hughes, Historic England Heritage at Risk Surveyor, said: “We now understand all of the issues which have been causing concern over many years – including occasional falls of stone internally, periodic flooding, structural discontinuities in the building fabric, and an increasing inability for the building’s drainage to deal with increased rainfall. The archaeological research which has been carried out as part of this project has shone a helpful light on the surviving medieval fabric.”
Robyn Llewellyn, Director, England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “We are delighted to be working with Historic England in supporting Dunstable Town Council with the urgent restoration of this exceptional Grade II* listed building. Thanks to National Lottery players, we’re able to support important projects such as the necessary conservation and structural repairs of Priory House, ensuring that heritage is safeguarded for future generations.”
Dunstable Town Mayor Cllr Liz Jones commented: “I am thrilled for the generous support from Historic England and the National Heritage Lottery Fund. Their contribution of over £1.2 million for the Priory House restoration project is a monumental step towards preserving our town’s rich history. This funding secures the future of a cherished landmark on Dunstable’s High Street.”
Sarah Tattersall, Conservation Accredited Engineer for The Morton Partnership, said: “Conservation works to the medieval undercroft of Priory House, have led to a much more detailed understanding of the historic building, alongside the complex structural and environmental demands that have been placed on it. We are delighted that the project has received funding from Historic England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, for works to sensitively repair and conserve the vaults and to address the wider issues affecting the building and site at the centre of Dunstable’s High Street.”