Combermere Abbey in Shropshire has won the 2016 Restoration Award presented by the Historic Houses Association (HHA) and sponsored by Sotheby’s. The house, owned by the Callander Beckett family since 1919, had suffered severe deterioration over a number of years. The Award is for the most recent restoration of the North Wing and in recognition of the 24-year project to bring the whole house back to life. Combermere Abbey sits at the heart of 1,000 acres of farmland, woodland and park, with a 150-acre lake curving around the house. The origins date to the 1130’s. The 900-year history has encompassed Royal purchase, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the impact of the Civil War, stately visits in the 18th century and extensive remodelling in the early 19th century. The 19th century render had caused extensive dry rot. In 1957 when Penelope Callander, later Lady Lindsay, inherited the house it was in such poor condition that permission was sought to demolish much of the building. Thankfully this plan was rejected and the process of trying to save Combermere began.
Firstly, the stable block was converted to create nine holiday cottages. Later the Library, formerly the Abbot’s Hall, was restored and brought back to its former magnificence complete with family heraldry and portraits, supported by grants from the Heritage Conservation Trust and English Heritage. The final stage of the restoration has taken place in the north wing. This will provide luxurious boutique bedrooms with sitting and dining rooms, as well as bridal accommodation. Ancillary buildings have also been restored, including a Grade II* game larder which is thought to date from the 19th century with a grant from the Country Houses Foundation.
The Historic Houses Association/Sotheby’s Restoration Award recognises and celebrates the work being undertaken by Members of the HHA throughout the United Kingdom. These projects reflect the dedication of owners to the care and sympathetic restoration of the incredible buildings that they own, inhabit and share with the public. This year the judges commended three properties alongside the winner: Crichel House, Dorset for the restoration of the Wyatt State Rooms; Hedingham Castle, Essex for the restoration of the Norman Keep and Penicuik House, Midlothian for the consolidation of the remains of this 18th century house.