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     St Benet's - A View from the Top

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In 2012, The Norfolk Archaeological Trust began a 2 year project to conserve and repair the ruins of St Benet's Abbey. It was a major undertaking, but action was necessary in order to protect the remaining ruins from simply falling down and vanishing from view.
The first part of the project was to restore the Abbey Gatehouse and associated mill. This is the most obvious remaining structure on the site and it was in danger of falling down unless action was taken. It is a complicated building consisting of the original Abbey Gatehouse to which the tower of a windmill was added in the 18th Century. Both the mill and gatehouse needed stabilising and re-pointing with lime mortar. Many bricks were missing from the mill and these had to be replaced with special new ones. The stonework of the gatehouse needed careful cleaning and restoration.
The Ludham Archive were very pleased to receive and invitation to visit the site and to inspect the work in progress. The whole structure was covered in scaffolding and this was a unique opportunity to climb up and see the structure from up close. There is also a fantastic view from the top.
Of course, we came equipped with cameras and videos to record the event. The team was Margaret, Bron, Ivor and Nigel.

Here are some of the many pictures we took. We hope you enjoy them:

Right - Some of the special new bricks used to restore the mill. These bricks are designed to look weathered and to colour match the existing.

Below - A view of the mill and gatehouse covered in scaffolding.

From the ground

Middle Right - It was dark inside the mill due to the scaffolding boards forming floors for the work team to stand on. Ivor gets to work with the camera.

Right - The inside of the tower showing where new bricks have been added to replace some of the many missing ones. Lime mortar is used as it would have been when the tower was constructed. The new bricks will weather to match the old ones.
special bricks
dark inside
new bricks

The view
The view from the top of the tower is stunning

St Helen's
St Helen's Church at Ranworth can be clearly seen from the top. There is no view of the Broad and the church appears in a sea of green.

Steve Martin
Top of Gatehouse
Steve Martin shows how the top of the Gatehouse has been repaired.

The Team
Ivor, Bron and Margaret from the Ludham Archive Group

The Mill Tower from the top of the Gatehouse.

The Abbey fishponds are clearly seen
Cross and
Looking out to the Abbey Church and the wherry Albion
This is the causeway which was the main access to the Abbey
St Helen's and a
Ranworth Church and a boat on the Bure
new bricks
New bricks on the outside of the tower
One of many cracks needing repair.
The view across the Abbey site to Thurne
top of mill
The top of the tower will get a metal cap to protect the bricks
Margaret and Camera. River Bure and Fleet Dyke behind her.

A view of the moorings from the top.
A cable had been fitted here, probably in WWII.
Looking down on the gatehouse.
Pointing work on top of the wall.
The top of the arch
A flint panel
Metal strips from a previous restoration hold up the stonework
All the pointing is in lime mortar.
Graffiti. A full graffiti survey will be undertaken soon.
outside wall
Part of the outer wall of the Abbey site. To be conserved soon.
The Abbey Church. Work will start here next year.
The new access path from the car park is nearly ready.

Car park
The new car park under construction

The team
The Ludham Archive Group Team. Bron, Nigel, Ivor, Margaret.

The conservation work on the Gatehouse and Mill is nearly complete. In the next phase of work, the perimeter wall which surrounds the St Benet's site will be conserved. The team will then move on to work on St James' Hospital Chapel in Horning. Next summer, work will start on the conservation of the Abbey Church.
Part of the project involves training teams of volunteers to continue the work after the conservation project is completed. The survey of graffiti which will start soon is part of this process. If you are interested in volunteering to help at St Benet's in any way, just go back to our home page and send us an e-mail. We can then pass your details on.
If you would like to see more pictures of our visit to St Benet's, you can come along to a meeting of the Ludham Archive Group. You can also see more pictures on Flickr by following this link:
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