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Emergency repairs to medieval gatehouse set to begin

A medieval monastic gatehouse at Pentney Priory in Norfolk, England, is to be saved, following a £200,000 English Heritage grant for emergency structural repairs.

The Grade I listed gatehouse which is also a Scheduled Monument has been on the Heritage at Risk register for many years and is at serious risk of collapse. Temporary internal scaffolding is currently in place in an attempt to brace the unsupported external walls and falling masonry poses a significant threat to the nearby public footpath.

Greg Luton, English Heritage Planning Director in the East of England said, “Saving this remarkable medieval gatehouse is a top priority. The combination of decisive action from the site’s owners Howard Barber and Dita Lee, backed up with advice and grant aid from English Heritage is securing a future for this important building. Several phases of work will be needed over the next two years beginning with the construction of a temporary roof, more scaffolding to support the walls and emergency masonry repairs to the crumbling parapets.”

Howard Barber, owner of Pentney Priory said: “My partner, Dita Lee and I are very excited to be involved in the restoration and preservation of this wonderful building. The future is secure for this nationally important structure. We are convinced that it will prove to be a wonderful asset for the community in West Norfolk and will be enjoyed by everyone who has an interest in our rich heritage. Without the support and encouragement of English Heritage, this building would have been lost to future generations.”

Pentney Priory was founded around 1130 by Robert De Vaux, and was one of the wealthier monastic communities in Norfolk. It was built on low-lying land in the Nar Valley and the site was linked to the river by a canal. The gatehouse was built in the 14th century as the principle entrance to the Priory complex. The external walls stand to their full height and retain much original architectural detail. It is now the only monastic building surviving above ground and is an important reminder of the power and prestige of the priory. Pentney was one of three Augustinian complexes in the Nar Valley, the smaller Wormegay Priory being absorbed by Pentney in 1468.

The Priory was dissolved in 1537 by Henry VIII and sold to the Earl of Rutland. Stone from the Priory was used in the building of Abbey Farm and on a number of the outbuildings. Many of the houses and outbuildings in the village of Pentney also contain medieval Barnack stone taken from the Priory.

Source: English Heritage

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