There is a considerable amount of highly skilled work that is required if we are to restore the estate while still preserving its heritage values and delivering the Masterplan objectives. Thus before restoration work can be comprehensively commenced the heritage and natural significance of the Estate needs to be fully understood and with such a complex heritage asset this has involved the input and advice of many specialist consultants. This process of understanding and expert advice has now been completed although specialist consultant advice will continue to be required throughout the entire restoration process.
As with any project where very high standards are required, thorough preparation work is essential to achieve a successful result. However during this process we have been able to carry out some physical works which either help to preserve the existing historic fabric until an overall solution can be found or are actual restoration works. If the planning approvals are forthcoming then the restoration work will be able to begin in earnest. Works undertaken so far include:
- Investigation, research and understanding of the entire estate. Click here for the full list of Surveys, Reports and Drawings
- Planning, listed building and scheduled ancient monument consents to find new beneficial uses for all the historic buildings within the Priory precinct. Click here for details of existing consents
- Colchester Wall restoration – This 190 metre long wall was in danger of imminent collapse onto the highway. Parts had to be demolished and rebuilt, structural buttresses were added to preserve in situ and the remainder was repaired using traditional methods and materials
- Structural scaffolds to Abbot’s Tower and various chimneys to prevent collapse.
- Improvements and repairs to internal of parts of the estate to allow occupation by the Family and others, which generates an income, ensures security and stewardship that reduces the Conservation Deficit.
- Abbot’s Tower – the tower was deemed dangerous and likely to collapse so a structural scaffold was erected and works started under an English Heritage grant scheme. However the chosen contractor went into liquidation. The Family offered to engage the contractor’s direct employees and sub-contractors for the same tender price so that the work could have been completed but sadly English Heritage would not allow this because it was in breach of EU tender regulations. In addition once the work started extensive ironwork was found within the core of the walls which is rusting and causing the fabric to be forced apart. Therefore English Heritage has recently decided that further design work is required and that the work will need to be re-tendered in full.
- Chapel - Replaced concrete paving slabs to Chapel with traditional yorkstone and inserted an additional step to improve and enhance access for St Osyth Day activities and to comply with wedding licence requirements
- Bailiff’s Cottage – within the Bailiffs Cottage is a 13th century scissor cross truss roof. This ancient roof has extensive rot and was failing under the weight of the handmade peg tiles. This was causing the walls to be pushed out and the roof was in imminent danger of collapse. The tiles have been removed, the roof propped and temporarily covered to preserve in situ until necessary consents are granted
- Historic Lake Restoration – Within Nun’s Wood there are monastic carp ponds that during the 18th century were altered to become a series of picturesque lakes and ponds within this woodland. Since it’s heyday it has become invaded with sycamore and the ponds and lakes have become completely silted up. Consent has been sought and granted to remove trees so that the aquatic and ecologically important series of features can be de-silted and restored. Work has been completed on the first pond with over 6,000 tonnes of silt being removed from the pond and spread on the adjacent farmland, as was the historic practice. It is estimated that there is a further 100,000 tonnes still to be removed. Once this work is complete it will be possible to phase out the invasive sycamore and replant with more historically appropriate species, so that once again this aquatic woodland garden with its mystical St Osyth legend can be a picturesque addition to the Estate.
- Gravel Work Restoration – The park has been mined for gravel since Georgian times however in the 1960s and 1970s extensive and highly damaging works of sand and gravel extraction were consented. The old consents did not require the restoration of these areas to a standard that was befitting of the registered parkland once the extraction works were completed. In additional the mineral operator, contrary to the planning consents, had not only removed/lost over 250,000 m3 of the important top and subsoils necessary to properly restore these areas but they had also been dumping large quantities of quicksand onto the land in pits. This has meant that extensive work has been required to make the land safe and also to restore it to a standard that is appropriate to the setting. The first and most hazardous phase of this work was done during the summer of 2010 in order to reduce the inherent dangers associated with excavating, drying and mixing the quicksand with other soils to make it safe before it can be reused in the restoration work. This work is ongoing but is being phased so as to limit the disturbance to wildlife and to allow for each area to re-establish before the next phase of work is completed.
- Tree Works and Planting – The estate contains many veteran trees and these require constant maintenance. Sadly many are dying and have died since 1999. We have the necessary consents to maintain these trees as the entire park is within a conservation area. We have removed dead and dangerous trees, including dealing with those that have fallen and at times blocked the public footpaths. We have also planted new parkland trees to start the process of restoration.
- Improved Landscape Management – The park is largely pasture and wood pasture that has not been grazed for many years. In order to re-establish this regime that improves the grassland we have, with the help of local farmers, started to reintroduce cattle and sheep along with the wild fallow deer to areas of the park. This along with the hay cutting regime has already seen improvements in the grassland
- Replanted Rose Garden - Whilst garden restoration works are at early stages we have recently replanted the rose garden with its new range of beautifully perfumed English varieties. Famous local rose nursery Cants, who have been established since 1765 advised on and supplied the roses. These have been planted to Cant’s design in the recently reinstated formal parterre garden which consists of traditional planting beds, edged in tightly clipped hedging and gravel paths arranged to form a pleasing, complex symmetrical pattern.
- Repaired and Managed The Bury – The Bury had become over-used and abused by inconsiderate vehicle parking that turned this greensward into a muddy mess. The rutted muddy areas have now been reseeded and the area is managed so that the parking is more limited and different areas are used to allow the grass to recover
- New Gates and Fencing - These have been made and erected around the estate to allow for the cattle grazing and to secure the Estate given the hazards that existed with the quicksand and to replace existing rotten gates.
- Maintenance – With a historic property it is essential that it is constantly maintained, with keeping the water out being the most critical work. The roofs, gutters and drainage are regularly inspected, cleared, repaired and maintained and the soakaways have been renewed where they are failing. These works are however beyond normal maintenance as a full scale renewal is long overdue.