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Pentney Priory Saved for the Nation

One of English Heritage's most ambitious restoration projects in the East of England is now complete with the conservation of the impressive medieval gatehouse at Pentney Priory in Norfolk. The imposing, three story, 14th century gatehouse is the only surviving monastic building from the once powerful and prestigious priory. Thanks to funding and expert advice from English Heritage its future is now secure.

Pentney Priory Gatehouse restored to its former glory
Pentney Priory Gatehouse restored to its former glory © Howard Barber

This Grade I listed gatehouse and scheduled monument is now set to be removed from English Heritage's 'Heritage At Risk' register following major structural repairs and a new roof, partly funded by a substantial repair grant from English Heritage.

The site has been on English Heritage's 'at risk' register since it was first published in 1998 and it is one of the top 10 priority sites in the East of England. Although recognised as an iconic local landmark, it was recently found to be in danger of imminent collapse, with falling masonry and leaking walls. Temporary internal scaffolding had to be put in place to brace the unsupported external walls. The priority was not only to save the gatehouse but also to find a use and sustainable future for the building. A well-informed and collaborative approach to the conservation work has lead to a beautiful restoration project involving traditional craft building skills. The owners are currently developing plans to open the gatehouse to the public.

Impressive medieval gatehouse at Pentney Priory restored
Impressive medieval gatehouse at Pentney Priory restored © Howard Barber

John Ette, English Heritage's Principle Heritage at Risk Adviser for the East of England, said: "Securing a future for this remarkable medieval gatehouse has been a top priority and I am delighted at the results. Our advice and expertise together with the dedication shown by the site's owners Howard Barber and Dita Lee, has transformed this ruin into a building that will be enjoyed by generations to come."

Howard Barber, owner of Pentney Priory, said: "A four year project is now drawing to a wonderful conclusion, and we are proud to present this beautiful building to the public. Not only it is a testament of past achievements, but it is also a narrative of what can be accomplished by today's craftsmen when they have the support of a partnership between English Heritage and the owners of these national important assets."

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 important architectural detail.

Pentney was one of three Augustinian houses in the Nar Valley, with the smaller Wormegay Priory being absorbed by Pentney in 1468. The Priory was dissolved in 1537 by Henry VIII as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries 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 nearby outbuildings. Many of the houses and outbuildings in the village of Pentney also contain stone taken from the Priory.

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