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HLF Project

The Heritage Lottery Funded Project at Llancaiach Fawr Manor

22.01.15 - Update

We are now coming towards the end of the conservation works that have been ongoing at Llancaiach Fawr over the past 12 months. 

Throughout the year regular visitors will have noticed significant changes to the exterior and interior of the Manor. Among other things, the house has a new slate roof, rainwater goods, the attics have been reconstructed to represent the servants quarters and we have redecorated each room with fresh lime-wash and new flooring where necessary. Additionally, a new staircase/lift tower has been constructed which, when complete, will enable disabled access to previously inaccessible areas of the house. 

We have also improved the physical and sensory interpretation by reinstating many of the fireplaces and by installing traditional horn lanterns, in an attempt to recreate an authentic 17th century atmosphere. 

During the last few months the lift has been installed into the new tower, and the new oak staircase beside it has been completed. This is a pivotal point in the project as for the first time, individuals with impaired mobility will be able access the floors and selected rooms above ground level and experience the house as they have not been able to previously.

We will be writing a new access guide to give visitors with disabilities all the information they will need before a visit, which will go on the website as soon as we have completed all the improvements for physical access - until then visitors with mobility impairment are advised to contact us for up to date information.

If you visit us within the next month you will be able to see the majority of the completed works and soak up the new atmosphere, however, as we come towards the end of the project a few areas will continue to be closed to the public. We do hope you will continue to visit and support us as we reach the final stages of the works, which will hopefully enable the Manor to survive for another 500 years!

If you would like more information on which areas will be inaccessible on the day of your visit, please contact us on 01443 412248.

18.03.14 - Update

"We have Heritage Lottery Funding (£943,200) and Cadw funding ( £30,000) to help us carry out building works which will make the manor even more atmospheric and fascinating, as well as accessible to more people.

The work is being carefully phased to allow the Manor to stay open throughout.

We wanted to make sure that our visitors had the opportunity to understand what we are doing (new roof and reconstructed servants quarters, new and hidden heating and lighting, a new staircase tower at the rear of the building instead of the modern fire escape, opening up more fireplaces and windows etc), why we are doing it (for improved interpretation with more authentic interiors, reduced maintenance costs and lower fuel bills to make us more sustainable in the future and to attract more visitors to share this gem of a gentry house) and how we are doing it (by showing the crafts and trade skills being used by the builders and letting visitors have a go and providing informal talks to explain the processes).

Builder on roofWe want visitors to have a glimpse into the work that goes into making sure that houses like this able to remain open to the public and that they leave knowing more about everyday life in a gentry household in the mid 17th century and with a greater understanding of how houses were built and the skills and materials that were used, as well as the importance of keeping those traditional skills alive today to protect our historic buildings and allow people to continue to enjoy them for generations to come....it’s just that it will be a little noisier than usual as Colonel Prichard has got the journeymen builders in to improve his Manor House!

The complete scaffol is now up and at present the concrete roof tiles are being stripped and the old electrical and mechanical instalations for the lighting and heaters have been taken out. The cellar has been cleared ready for the new boiler , sinks and work area as well as a new toilet to be fitted. From a study of the roof timber and changes in the building construction, seen most easily with the roof clear, we think that there may need to be a reassessment of the phases of building. The main east- west roof was certainly built at different times. Interesting and puzzling times are ahead as we try and work out the order in which the building was constructed and extended and hopefully we may be able to finally start to date the earliest phase more accurately.

Monthly 'Behind the Scenes' tours will be run on the first saturday of the month by the contractors to take people into the areas that are normally out of bounds due to safety concerns whilst they are working. Places need to be booked early as they are very limited and the £3 fee per person goes to the fundraising appeal by the Friends of Llancaiach Fawr Manor for the furniture and objects for the servants attics- flat shoes and a head for heights are likely to be needed! See the website for details each month- the next tour will cover the re-roofing of the manor and is on saturday 5th April. Public tours at 10 am and 11am ( ish...as there will be lots of questions for the builders and they might over run a bit!)

23.01.14 - Update

The Manor was originally restored to its 17th century layout and interior with the thought that it would be a local history museum- consequently, it was fitted with modern lighting and heating, a concrete tile roof, as well as a metal fire escape that were suitable for that use.

Eventually though it was decided to interpret the building through the use of live costumed interpretation with the servants of Colonel Prichard’s Household showing visitors around as though they are living in 1645 and we have been welcoming visitors to the Manor in that way for the last 22 years.

However, electric lighting, gas heating and metal fire escapes hadn’t been invented in 1645 and so these elements of the interior have always been the ‘elephant in the room’.  They are regularly commented upon by visitors and rigorously ‘ignored’ by the servants of the Household who aren’t supposed to know of anything invented after 1645...  It isn’t straightforward though…it is a grade 1 listed building and any changes have to be carefully thought out and planned so that they cause no, or as little as possible, damage to the fabric of the building. Removing the existing fire escape means that an alternative way of getting visitors out of the building as quickly as possible has to be designed and be acceptable to Cadw inspectors- but without an alternative we would be unable to let the public into the north wing of the manor because of the distances to a fire exit.

We need to create a sympathetic solution to the heating and lighting issues. We also have to be mindful of rising fuel costs and create an energy efficient solution that is sustainable for the future. We will be opening up all the chimneys so that we can have open fires using recycled timber from the county borough. Instead of modern light fittings we will use period lanterns and wall sconces to recreate the light levels suitable for a 17th century interior which can still function as emergency lights if we have to evacuate the building and be made brighter if we have visitors with a visual impairment.

We will be laying a new slate roof as well which will last for a century at least with careful maintenance. That will be the biggest job of all and has to be done outside the bat breeding season as we have some Brown Long Eared bats on the attics. We have to create entry points for them in the eaves and entry points in the internal panelling so that they can do their warm up flights inside the attics before going out to feed at night!

It is important to be able to create access to as much of the building as possible. The attics, which were the servants’ quarters, have been out of bounds as unsafe for the public to enter because they no longer have floorboards. We show how the gentry lived and worked but we don’t show how and where the servants lived and we should. It is vital to show the contrast in living conditions if we are to tell a complete and accurate story.

‘Access for All’ has been a guiding principle for all of us on the Project Team. We have spent many months trying to create as much access to the upper floors as possible for visitors with mobility difficulties. The plan to create an external staircase tower when we take out the metal spiral staircase gives us the opportunity to improve physical access to the upper floors, not just for wheelchair users, but also for those of us who find the steep stairs difficult to negotiate or the spiral fire escape a bit on the scary side! The middle floor has given us the most problems because the rooms are all at different levels and the change in levels and the width of the rooms makes it impossible to use ramps.

The introduction of the wheelchair platform lift and the even step height staircase in the staircase tower will make the whole of the ground floor, the north wing of the middle floor and all of the top floor accessible to wheelchair users. People with mobility difficulties who don’t need to use a wheelchair but can’t manage the uneven step heights will be able to access all the rooms on each floor. We will be adding wrought iron handrails and some false oak steps in the places where there is a steep climb.

Having said that, wheelchair users will still be unable to get up into the attics but visitors with mobility difficulties should be able to access the stone staircases with care after the handrails are fitted. We will be creating a film of the whole house after the works are finished so that everyone will be able to see the new layout and the attics fitted out as the servants living quarters. As we have developed our ideas and plans we have sought the thoughts and input of the Cadw Historic Buildings Inspectors, conservation specialists and groups and individuals who act as advocates for people with disabilities and we hope that we will achieve the best possible level of access to the Manor as possible.

We will be installing proper washing facilities and food storage in the cellar to meet environmental health requirements so that we can do more cooking demonstrations in the Manor. Hopefully we can reach a point where we can safely let the public taste what is made in the historic kitchen. The area at the bottom of the stairs in the Servants Hall down to the cellar can then be shown with all the barrels and goods that would originally have been stored there.

We will be keeping the manor open during the building works because we want to make sure that visitors have the opportunity to find out about how historic buildings are conserved for the benefit of the communities that surround them and for future generations. Certain areas will be out of bounds for safety reasons but we will be doing our historic interpretation of those areas that are accessible, giving talks on the architecture and history of the Manor and running practical activities that will give a taste of traditional building skills.

Work should start in earnest at the beginning of 2014 and it will last for about 12 months. We look forward to welcoming visitors to the site and updating you on how the work is progressing and sharing this exciting project to breathe new life into a much loved historic building.

 

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