Combermere Abbey near Nantwich has been crowned the winner of the 2016 Restoration Award following a 24-year project to bring the whole house back to life.
Presented by the Historic Houses Association (HHA) and sponsored by Sotheby’s, the award has been given for the most recent full restoration of the abbey’s north wing, as well as in recognition of the entire project.
The house, owned by the Callander Beckett family since 1919, had suffered severe deterioration over a number of years.
Sarah Callander Beckett said: “The restoration of this wonderful place has been my mission since inheriting it in 1992 and has taken my family and me on an extraordinary journey over the past 24 years.
“The support and encouragement we have had from so many people has been integral to its successful renaissance. To finally see the abbey without scaffolding, standing proud in the landscape as it was designed to be makes it all very worthwhile and I hope will give encouragement to others in a similar situation fighting to save these remarkable treasures.”
The abbey’s origins date to the 1130s and its 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.
An abbey spokesman said: “These events all took their toll on the Grade I-listed building, and 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.”
Photographs of the abbey in the 1970s show seven of the listed buildings in disrepair and danger of collapse, and Combermere was placed on the ‘Heritage at Risk’ register. When Sarah took over, she reassessed the restoration and sought to improve the site.
Firstly, the stable block was converted to create nine holiday cottages. Later the library, formerly the Abbot’s Hall, was restored – complete with family heraldry and portraits, supported by grants from the Heritage Conservation Trust and English Heritage.
The final stage of the restoration took place in the north wing, providing boutique bedrooms and bridal accommodation. Ancillary buildings have also been restored, including a Grade II-listed game larder.
Richard Compton, president of the Historic Houses Association, said: “The Callander Beckett family have achieved huge amounts with the restoration of Combermere Abbey. It is evident just how much dedication and attention to detail has gone in to not just making this a wonderful family home, but also a beautiful wedding venue and a house that can be enjoyed by many.”