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Wellbrook Manor
23-10-2014

Wellbrook Manor, Peterchurch, Herefordshire

The Wellbrook Estate is the home of the Vivat Trust and while we operate from the beautifully renovated garden barn, the Manor House remains unoccupied and requires significant internal works.  Bringing this remarkable house back to life is our priority for 2014/15.

The Manor is a Grade I listed medieval cruck-framed hall house built around 1350.  The cruck, which is still intact, is influenced by the house's position on the Welsh Marches as it incorporates both English and Welsh design features which makes it a very rare example of architecture of this period.  The quatrefoils displayed in the upper hall have a very welsh flavour, whilst the cruck structure is distinctly English. It is this blend of styles that makes it even more interesting and very much a borders building. In the 16th century the building was adapted for personal rather than community living. The hall was divided horizontally giving us today two beautiful spaces to work with and offering the ability to get up close to the cruck frame. It is probable that the stunning stone fireplace in the solar was added at this time, along with the open fire in the upper hall. In the 1920's the kitchen wing was demolished and the building extended to the rear.        

When bequeathed to us in 2009 the Manor House looked in reasonable condition but the pebble dash cement gave everyone concerns.  As we began to take the render off and investigate the medieval timber structure we discovered that many of the footplates and vertical beam footings had rotted away to nothing, causing a "wobbly wall" which distressingly was at ground level. The medieval chimney stack had to be taken down as it swayed in the wind and was in danger of falling through the roof and then we discovered that one elevation of the stone flagged roof had acute nail sickness and had to be replaced. 

It soon became clear that the condition of the exterior was going to be far more expensive than anticipated and that we were not going to be able to finish the whole project in one phase so instead we focused on ensuring the property was made secure and wind and watertight. This approach ensured the building was sound but it does not give it an active life nor does it contribute positively to the work of the Vivat Trust.

The works to the structure totalled £700,000 with an additional £85,000 used to bring the barn into use as an office and a self-contained small holiday let (The Studio, Wellbrook Manor).  This was all funded from our small pool of reserves, loans from the Architectural Heritage Fund and a generous donation of £100,000 from the Country House Foundation.  The completion of Wellbrook Manor is now our most urgent priority. 

We still have a significant amount of work to do before the house can welcome holiday guests, and unfortunately it is the element of our work which is unattractive to charitable grant funders.  The Manor House needs to be entirely rewired and re-plumbed, all electrical mechanical services installed and hemp-crete panelling must be completed internally before all the walls can be lime plastered and the ceilings re-plastered.  As with all our projects the Trust is committed to working with SME local craftsmen to complete the project rather than using a main contractor. In addition, we are exploring a possible working relationship with the local secondary school which offers a construction NCFE qualification. This partnership builds on the relationship we already have with the National Heritage Training Group which is using the house as a training venue.

Once these works have been completed the entire house needs re-decorating, something we hope we can tempt volunteers to help us with.  Very generously, Joan Griffith who bequeathed the house to Vivat also left to us the majority of her furniture so the furnishing of the house will be less of a headache for us this time around although we will need to renew the mattresses and have some curtains made to offer that peculiarly Vivat experience for guests. Once restoration and re-fitting of the manor house has been completed it will accommodate 11 to 12 guests. There is a debate about one room, does it become a very spacious single or a reasonable double?  Whatever we finally decide,  income from lettings will then create a financially sustainable future for the property .

However, before the house has a secure future, we must raise a further £250,000. This will be our fundraising focus for the year ahead and we are calling upon all those who share our passion of sharing the nation's architectural heritage to help us.

If you are able to donate either financially or by lending a hand as a volunteer contact the Vivat office on 01981 550753 or email Andrew Jardine, andrew@vivat-trust.org

 
 
 
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