Spectacular makeover of historic gates complete, thanks to government funding


Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2022

TWO significant examples of Leicester’s architectural history have been fully restored with a government grant for expert repair work.

Leicester has received a total of £27,500 in support from the Heritage Stimulus Fund, part of the government’s Culture Recovery Fund administered by Historic England.

Leicester City Council has successfully bid for £20,000 to help restore the Grade II* listed Quenby Hall gates which are currently in the gardens of Newarke Houses Museum.

Alongside this, Leicester Unitarians received £5,000 to help fund repairs to the boundary wall of the city’s historic Great Chapel.

Work on both projects is now complete.

Quenby Hall’s highly decorative wrought iron gates, which date from the early 18th century, have been extensively repaired and restored by specialists at Caliber Conservation, based in the East Midlands.

The work saw parts of the existing ironwork repaired, missing sections reinstated, and shoddy replica decorative details carefully replaced with specially cast, historically accurate replacements.

One of the most striking changes resulting from the restoration is that the doors are now painted a bold Prussian blue, rather than the black finish visitors to Newarke Houses Museum are already familiar with. This is the result of expert paint analysis by the conservation contractors and more accurately reflects how the doors would have originally been painted. Prussian blue pigment was still a relatively new discovery in the early 1700s and was considered prestigious at the time. It is also linked to the colors of the crest of George Ashby – owner of the Quenby Hall estate – which features prominently in the design of the historic gates.

The gates were originally located at Quenby Hall, near Cold Newton and Hungarton, Leicestershire. They were donated to the Leicester Royal Infirmary in 1768, following a redesign of the ward gardens, and remained on the hospital grounds until the Victoria Wing extension was built in 1901. They were then moved to the new Walk Museum in 1902, before being moved to their current home in 1955. Work is underway on a longer term plan which could see the fully restored historic gates returned to the site of the hospital as the centerpiece of a new garden space.

Repairs have also been carried out to the historic boundary wall of the Great Meeting Chapel on Butt Close Lane. The Grade II listed 18th century red brick wall has been professionally repaired and repointed with missing bricks carefully replaced. The work was partly funded by another grant from the City Council’s Historic Buildings Grant Scheme. The work is part of a larger ongoing project to restore the Chapel of the Great Reunion, one of the city’s most interesting Georgian sites.

The City’s Deputy Mayor and City Council Heritage Champion, Cllr Adam Clarke, said: “Support from the Culture Recovery Fund has helped to ensure that we can enhance and protect two other significant examples of the rich architectural heritage of the city. I am delighted that both of these fascinating examples have benefited from such a well-researched, sensitive and careful restoration that will help ensure that they can be enjoyed by future generations.

Great Meeting Chapel President Mike Drucquer said, “The restoration of the historic boundary wall has proven to be of great interest to groups and individuals visiting the chapel. She also revealed that the wall is made up of a fascinating mix of materials from different eras which provide a unique insight into Leicester’s history.

Both structures were previously in poor condition and have been included in Leicester’s most recent endangered heritage register. It is expected that restoration will result in their removal from the list. This will bring the total number of historic buildings and structures removed from the local list in the past five years to 33.

The government’s £1.57billion Culture Recovery Fund grants aimed to protect heritage sites and ensure that jobs and access to culture and heritage in local communities were protected during the coronavirus pandemic.

Duncan Wilson, Managing Director of Historic England, said: [DRAFT] “The Culture Recovery Fund has offered a lifeline to kick-start essential repairs and maintenance to many of our most treasured historic sites, so they can begin to recover from the damaging effects of Covid-19. .

“It has helped provide jobs for the skilled artisans who help keep historic places alive and keep the wheels of the heritage sector turning. Our shared heritage is an anchor for all of us in difficult times and this funding has helped ensure that it will continue to be part of our collective future.


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