Conservators restore Arts and Crafts rooms at 600-year-old Mount Grace Priory in Yorkshire

By Culture24 Staff | 08 April 2010
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a photo of a group of people in front of an old stone Manor House

(Above) The English Heritage team bidding to restore Arts and Crafts rooms at Mount Grace Priory. © Tony Bartholomew

Conservators at Mount Grace Priory, near Osmotherley in North Yorkshire, are bidding to revive the creative heritage of the 600-year-old site's monastic Manor House in a £150,000 project by English Heritage to restore two rooms.

The Arts and Crafts rooms were given a makeover in the 1890s, and the restoration of these period features is progressing well with timber oaks beams in situ and flooring set to be installed.

One of the rooms will also be hung with handmade wallpaper, specially designed and based on a fragment of the original wall covering found at the Priory. Experts have unearthed other clues about the rooms' original appearance from grainy period photographs, a 1945 inventory of furniture and the original architect's drawing dating to 1898.

Restorers have been given a window on the past in the shape of an old sepia tinted photograph, which was recovered from an old drawer and handed in anonymously by a member of the public.

Dating to the time of the original works, it shows workmen employed by Priory owner, Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, a Teeside steel magnate and keen advocate of the arts and crafts movement.

a sepia photo of a group of men wearing flat caps

Workers at Mount Grace Priory (circa 1890s). Courtesy English Heritage

Lowthian Bell hired some of the nation's top designers, together with the local masons, glaziers and carpenters pictured in the old photo, to give the Manor House a new lease of life.

"The purchase of the Mount Grace Priory in the 1890s by Sir Lowthian Bell proved a turning point in the site's fortunes," explained Becky Wright, English Heritage Custodian at Mount Grace Priory.

"He was a leading light in the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. Paradoxically, there are more than 20 workmen shown in the photo, and that's just about the same number of people we have today reviving the two Arts and Crafts Rooms.

"They played a big part in preserving the Priory and we would be very interested to learn if anyone recognises any of them."

Mount Grace Priory was founded in 1398 by Carthusian monks whose zealous faith and adherence to solitude and piety attracted wealthy benefactors. After Henry VIII closed Mount Grace in 1539 and pensioned off the remaining 16 monks and the prior, the property became a gentleman's des res.

The two newly refurbished rooms will open to the public later this year.

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