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Latton Priory

Case study: London Road, North Weald Bassett, Epping Forest, Essex C017 9LH (East of England)

List entry numbers: 1017386 (scheduled monument); 1111392 (listed building)

Latton Priory building at risk - exterior view of Latton Priory showing west elevation
This is a fascinating example of how a building has been adapted and re-used over time, the story clearly told in the fabric of the building

Background and history

Latton Priory is both a grade II* listed building and a scheduled monument. The building sits within a wider, scheduled site which is thought to contain the original monastic buildings. Almost all of the other remains are hidden below ground.

The crossing, parts of the north and south transepts and nave are the most visible remains. The Augustinian priory was established in the 12th century, rebuilt in the early 14th century, and abandoned by 1534.

The remaining stone elements are now contained within a post-Reformation timber-framed barn structure. Although the doors are missing it is currently in use as a barn and for occasional church services.

Almost all the roofs leak and there are gaps in the weatherboard cladding to the walls. This places interior timber framing and important early 14th century carved stonework at risk from water ingress.

Latton Priory building at risk - internal view showing monastic remains within the later barn
Here the intricate timber framing for the roof structure shows how the monastic remains have been extended and adapted to form a barn

Is it at risk?

Yes. It was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2014.

Water ingress through the roof tiles is leading to decay of important 14th century fine ashlar stone. The effects of salt migration and repeated freeze/thaw cycles are leading to stonework erosion.

Roof tile fixings have rusted, and more tiles have been lost over recent years. Barn doors have been removed. The wind therefore gets trapped within the building and pushes up against the roof.

Rainwater goods are generally undersized and some below-ground drains may be inadequate.

There is concern about the progressively worsening condition of the fabric.

Latton Priory building at risk - exterior view showing south-west elevation
Exterior view of Latton Priory showing south-west elevation

What's the current situation?

The barn cannot be used for storage of modern farm machinery. Moving large agricultural vehicles in and out of the building would risk damage to the priory stonework. It is currently used for low-key storage.

Historic England has provided funding of £114,000 towards the cost of repairs. Additional funding has been provided by the owner. The work includes re-roofing, repairs to the external elements and the timber frame. This will leave the building structurally sound and wind and weathertight.

Works are underway and completion is due by January 2016.

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