14 August 2012
A ground-breaking project underway in North Yorkshire is safeguarding the remains of an historic priory for the future and is also providing a training ground for a new generation of craftspeople to learn traditional skills.
Wykeham Priory near Scarborough, which dates back to the 12th Century, is currently on English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk register because of its poor condition. The site fell into ruin after Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and today only one length of medieval walling, in a very poor state of repair, survives upstanding.
Now, thanks to funding through a Natural England Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement with the land owners, work is taking place that should result in the historic building being removed from the heritage at risk list. The HLS scheme is funding essential consolidation and repair work taking place at the priory, including work to rebuild crumbling parts of the stonework using traditional lime mortar. Works are sensitively avoiding a small bat roost and are using ‘green capping’ and other innovative techniques to ensure that the ruin remains a picturesque feature.
Wykeham Priory was originally founded in 1153 as home to a community of Cistercian nuns, but was dissolved in 1539-40 on the orders of Henry VIII. Today, Wykeham Priory has become one of the sites taking part in the Traditional Estates Craft Apprenticeship Project which is providing opportunity and training for the next generation of crafts men and women in rural areas to learn traditional skills. The apprenticeship scheme will give three young people the opportunity to learn about the maintenance and conservation of traditional buildings from highly skilled and experienced people working in the North York Moors area.
Dr Margaret Nieke, Historic Environment Lead Adviser for Natural England, recently joined Baroness Andrews, Chair of English Heritage, on a visit to Wykeham Priory to see the work in progress and meet two of the apprentices taking part in the scheme.
Margaret said: “It’s great news that the apprenticeship project is providing opportunities for young people to learn traditional building skills and address the shortage of skilled craftsmen who can work on the region’s distinctive heritage buildings. I’m delighted that the works that are being funded by the HLS scheme at Wykeham Priory are proving to be an ideal real-life restoration project for the apprentices to work on. This is a great example of how Natural England works in partnership with other organisations and local communities to achieve conservation of the built heritage and natural beauty of North Yorkshire while also leaving a lasting legacy for the future.”
The Traditional Estates Craft Apprenticeship Project is managed by the University of York, with assistance from the North York Moors National Park Authority and funded by English Heritage, The Ernest Cook Trust, the Historic Houses Association (Yorkshire), the Radcliffe Trust, the York Foundation for Conservation and Craftsmanship and the North York Moors, Coast and Hills Programme through the Rural Development Programme for England, which is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union.
The priory would originally have been a very substantial complex of domestic and religious buildings but the north wall of the priory church is the main surviving feature. It is about 40 metres long and two metres wide. The original fabric of the wall is roughly coursed sandstone rubble with a chamfered string course. The wall also has a 14th century three light window, a door with a semi-circular arch infilled with some fragments of decorative stonework, and two blocked arches which led to the north transept.
For further information, please contact:
David Hirst, Natural England press officer: 0300 0601720 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Environmental Stewardship:
Environmental Stewardship schemes are administered by Natural England, on behalf of Defra, and fund farmers and land managers throughout England to deliver effective environmental management on their land.
The objectives of Environmental Stewardship are to:
Promote public access and understanding of the countryside
Maintain and enhance landscape quality and character
Protect the historic environment and natural resources