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Conservation in Action at Furness Abbey

Furness Abbey, credit English Heritage

The final phase of a vital conservation project at Furness Abbey in Cumbria will give visitors the opportunity to see the conservation work as it happens, English Heritage has announced. The £650,000 project will be the next step in a ten year programme of maintenance, investigation, monitoring and testing, to ensure the long term stability and safety of Furness Abbey’s presbytery, as well as the conservation of three other highly significant areas of the site, including the West Tower, East range and Infirmary.

The works, which will commence towards the end of summer 2020 and take approximately 12 months to complete, represent the latest in a series of interventions to address issues with the structural stability of the abbey’s presbytery.

A crack in the presbytery wall was first noticed in 2008 and the first phase of works involved the installation of a temporary steel cradle to ensure no further damage occurred. Archaeological excavation around the base of the structure followed to establish the cause of the problem and develop a solution. Between 2012 and 2015 underpinning work took place to the north, south and eastern walls of the Presbytery. Monitoring work followed to access the potential for further movement. Now, in what is hoped will be the final phase of conservation works, grout will be injected into the rubble-filled cavity between of the walls. This work will greatly increase the structure’s stability. Though further monitoring will need to take place, it is hoped that the works will ultimately lead to the removal of the steel cradle.

Other works to the presbytery will include,; repointing the large cracks across the presbytery using hot lime; addressing any stone repairs required; and removing vegetation from the walls. The project will also complete work to the West Tower, East Range and Infirmary; all vital conservation work to ensure the abbey can continue to be enjoyed by visitors for years to come.

Furness Abbey reopened to visitors on the 4th July. Residents who pay Council Tax in Barrow are eligible for free entry however pre-booking is essential for all visitors.

Andrea Selley, Historic Properties Director – North, said: “Though much of our work has been put on hold due to the pandemic, our funds for this vital conservation work at Furness Abbey have been protected to ensure this important and well-loved historic site can continue to be enjoyed safely by the local community.”

Mark Douglas, English Heritage’s Property Curator North, said: “Furness Abbey is one of the most significant monastic sites in Northern England and this work will go a long way to ensure people can continue to enjoy the site for years to come. Being able to see these works take place on site over the coming months offers a unique opportunity for visitors to actually see these expert conservation techniques in action.”

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