by Joanna Daykin
Stoke sub-Hamdon Priory
This little known National Trust property, was initially formed as the chantry chapel of St Nicholas in the 14th-century, funded by the first Baron Beauchamp. Today the site is little used, except by the local farmer to graze his sheep. While at the property with 2009 Scholar Meriel O’Dowd we were encouraged to think about possible reuse opportunities for the collection of buildings. We discussed how reusing a few buildings can generate sufficient income for their maintenance and the repair of other buildings on the site.
Court House, Chard
The Manor Court House in Chard was built in 1540, straddling a burgage plot running back from the main Street. The Court House decorated with early Tudor strap work is mostly still intact. Many changes to the surrounding building having mutilated the original plan form. However a new business plan which proposes that the buildings be made into a number of flats reserving the court room for functions was discussed. Even though this will possibly lead to dramatic alterations it may conserve the court room and its beautiful plaster, providing a viable future and use for what is now a decaying and poorly maintained building.
This folly in the gardens of St Giles was extensively repaired as part of a DEFRA Parkland Grant. The initial inspection could only be undertaken after it was excavated from a mass of vegetation overgrowth. Decayed roofs and piles of shells were found beneath. A process of sorting and cleaning along with investigation into its original decoration was painstakingly undertaken. Sally Strachey Conservation carried out the repairs in two phases, first by pinning and strengthening the ceiling from above and replacing the roof. Only then were they able to restore the fantastic interior by pinning and reprinting in the shells.
Wimborne St Giles
The 1st Earl of Shaftesbury built Wimborne St Giles in 1651 in the classical Renaissance style. The house expanded over the years, but became too unruly and in the 19th century about a third of the house was pulled down. The house fell into further disrepair and in 2001 the house was put on English Heritage’s at Risk Register. When the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury inherited the house he not only halted the building’s decline but began to renew the house’s former beauty. Panelling and artefacts removed and stored throughout the estate were returned to the house and the grand rooms of the house restored. The most dramatically repaired room was the dining room where only part of the panelling survives. A decision was made to keep the panelling in its partial condition and the room decorated and hung with paintings for reuse. Other rooms in the house await their repair as new funds are generated through the reuse of the grand ground floor rooms.
The works in the house were approached with a different philosophy to the shell grotto. The existing fabric was retained with minimal repair and no additional replacement. However the shell grotto was nearly entirely restored. The approaches were suitable for the different situations telling the story of the house, which has seen much dilapidation before its resurrection by the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury, Whereas the purpose of the shell grotto would have been lost without completely restoring its interior which creates its fantasy atmosphere. In many ways both Stoke sub-Hamdon Priory and the Manor Court House in Chard are at risk of being lost and their stories forgotten if new uses are not found for their buildings.