Our biggest conservation project

Restoration work being undertaken at Ightham Mote, Kent. © John Wilson

Restoration work being undertaken at Ightham Mote, Kent.

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It’s rare for a conservation project to last for 15 years, which is why our efforts to preserve and protect Ightham Mote in Kent are often referred to as our biggest conservation project to date.

When we acquired the property back in 1985, we immediately embarked on an extensive programme of work to secure the structural integrity of the building and to allow safe public access.

While at first glance the property appears to date from Tudor times, it is actually a fusion of architectural developments.

History of the Mote
Dating from 1330, Ightham Mote (a majestic moated medieval manor) is hidden away in a secluded location in the Kentish Weald. A dramatic moat surrounds the four wings of the house with the walls on all four sides dropping vertically into the water.

Protected from harm by the giant moat are a range of features including a Great Hall, Crypt, a Tudor Chapel with a hand-painted ceiling, and the private apartments of the American donor Charles Henry Robinson.

The problems we discovered
As with all building conservation projects, our team were keen to maintain the historical integrity of the building and decided it was important to work with all the historical layers of the building. This meant it wasn’t sufficient to address the surface problems alone – the team had to work to retain and protect older layers beneath the Tudor facade.

The conservation programme started in 1988, lasted 15 years and cost £10 million, with 40 per cent grant-aided funding from English Heritage and the rest from public appeal.

The main problems facing the conservation team were:

  • erosion of the masonry above and below water level
  • decaying timber frame and roof structures
  • wet rot
  • insect infestation caused by the penetration of water into the timber structure

During the prolonged period of conservation, the building remained open to the public and the works that the team carried out were explained carefully by means of information panels and guided tours.

What does the conservation work mean to our visitors?
The South West Quarter was the last phase of work to be undertaken on the house, but when the work was finally completed, it enabled us to open up Charles Henry Robinson's apartment for the first time.

Come and see for yourself
The valuable work has helped to ensure that this wonderful place is preserved for all to enjoy. Why not visit Ightham Mote for an insight into the traditional building work and conservation techniques that were used in this project?

We even run educational trips for schools which allow children to spend the day playing house detective. This popular tour enables curious minds to explore Ightham Mote through 700 years of history. You even get to quiz the Victorian housekeeper or Tudor cook.