Anglesey Abbey Restored To Lord Fairhaven's Vision

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 31 July 2007
photo of a grey stone building with high windows

Anglesey Abbey Picture Gallery. Photo Ashley Courtney, Freeland Rees Roberts Architects, © National Trust

Refurbishment work at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire has been completed, restoring the property to the vision of its former owner, Lord Fairhaven.

The National Trust-owned building, in Lode, north east of Cambridge, dates back to 1600 and includes fragments of the 12th century Augustinian priory it was built on, which was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536.

Lord Fairhaven acquired it in 1926, and occupied it until his death in 1966. He had outlined his wishes for it to be preserved in its 1950s layout in his will and the new repairs mean that it has now re-opened to the public.

“Throughout this project, the aim has been to realise the vision of Lord Fairhaven as accurately as possible, whilst ensuring the longevity of the building,” said Ashley Courtney, project architect for Freeland Rees Roberts Architects, who organised the refurbishment works.

“As with all historic sites, alterations have to be handled in a very sensitive manner to protect original features and conscientiously restore the space.”

Work started in January 2007 because of the building’s deteriorating condition and the project included dry-lining the east wall, which had been causing mould growth on the back of some valuable oil paintings, including works by Aelbert Cuyp and Claude Lorraine.

photo of a wall covered in oil paintings with an ornate table in front of it with a bust and two bowls of flowers on it

The Upper Gallery showing part of Lord Fairhaven's collection of paintings. © NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Other external repairs involved fixing the lead flat roof and some leaded metal casement windows, plus replacing and repointing defective brickwork.

New matching cornice and stone skirtings plus humidity controls have also been installed and all paintings returned to Lord Fairhaven’s 1950s layout, with new picture lighting fitted to enhance their appearance.

The interior was redecorated and a new 12 by 4 metre replica Aubusson carpet worth more than £20,000 has been given to the Abbey by the National Trust Association of Kensington and Chelsea. It is due to arrive later in the year and will join the 1906 New York Steinway piano - as envisaged by Lord Fairhaven.

“These alterations and repairs ensure that the artworks are properly protected within an interior that is welcoming, safe and comfortable,” added Ashley. “Our knowledge of the site’s history and many years experience in the conservation, restoration and refurbishment of historic buildings has helped considerably in realising this vision for Anglesey Abbey.”

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