Repairs needed at medieval chapel in Bradwell Abbey

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St Mary’s Chapel at Bradwell Abbey in Buckinghamshire, England is undergoing repairs with a temporary roof put in place make it water and weatherproof. An appeal is now underway to raise £50,000 to complete restoration efforts.

The roof of the 14th century Chapel has been in need of repair for some time. The Chapel houses some unique medieval wall paintings – depicting votive offerings – these were facing threat of water damage. This is the only location in the United Kingdom where paintings of this nature are found.

The restoration work is being carried out by Milton Keynes Council, in partnership with the local educational charity, the Milton Keynes City Discovery Centre (MKCDC), and English Heritage. Henk van Aswegen, Director of MKCDC said, “The whole of the site is due for refurbishment, but that will need further funding sources from outside of Council coffers. We are managing the site on behalf of Milton Keynes Council and the people of Milton Keynes; and as such are appealing to local industry and philanthropic donors to assist us with donations to help fund the emergency works.”

The temporary roof is both a vital protective measure and a first step to enable further investigative work to determine the required refurbishment on the Chapel. Furthermore the investigative Chapel work will form part of a conditions survey of the overall Bradwell Abbey site. Results of the overall condition survey will be presented to Cabinet in January 2011 for a decision on the way forward.

The Council in conjunction with MKCDC and other partners is currently developing a sustainability plan involving the heritage, educational and visitor offering of Bradwell Abbey as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Wanda Fourie, who is the Council officer leading on the project said, “This is a very important site of local and national historical interest – it dates back to the Middle Ages, and belies Milton Keynes’ image as a city only 40 odd years old.”

The estate is centred on the historically important medieval Bradwell Abbey ruins, the tithe barn, the thrashing barn, the farmhouse, the bakehouse and the 14th century chapel of St. Mary still stand. The site started as a priory in the mid 11th century.

Fragments of other medieval buildings can be seen where they have been re-used in later buildings. The site continued in use as a farm until 1971. During the 1950′s and 60′s many features such as the orchard, a medieval barn, field walls and the remains of the elm avenue were removed in an effort to increase the efficiency of the farm. Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC) bought the site in 1971 restoring the chapel, farmhouse and fishponds were restored.

Henk van Aswegen added, “Ironically we had just published a new booklet celebrating this Medieval gem when we found the problem but we’re so glad we could do something before winter set in. We are launching a fresh appeal to local businesses and philanthropists to support our restoration fund and preserve this miraculous survivor from another age.”

Proceeds from a new illustrated booklet called The Chapel of St Mary will go towards the project. The booklet is on sale for £5.50 at the MK City Discovery Centre.

See also this BBC video report

Source: Milton Keynes Council

Sharan Newman