Region: East of England
Local Authority: Suffolk Coastal
Owner Type: Private
Funding Body: Private
Year of Intervention: 2000 - 2001
Summary: Informed repair and reuse strategy rescues listed Grade II* Abbey Farm Barn from near collapse.
Description: Abbey Farm Barn is one of only two medieval aisled barns in East Suffolk and it is listed Grade II*. The monastic barn is a timber-framed building of seven bays; it is weatherboarded externally and has roof coverings of pantiles and tarred tin. In recent years the barn has been used as a low-key storage shed.
Issue: In October 1987 the barn suffered serious storm damage and it was near collapse. The owner’s architect consulted English heritage for technical advice and the possibility of grant-aid for urgent repairs. The costs of even a minimal repair scheme appeared prohibitive, especially in the context of the low-key, non-income-generating use of the barn
Strategy: Repairs were limited to those absolutely essential to secure the structural integrity of the building. Building analysis and drawn survey work was undertaken in order to understand the historic and archaeological significance of different parts of the building, which in turn was used to inform repair strategies. The repair work was based on the criteria of minimum intervention and avoidance of distorting the evidence provided by the fabric. The work was carried out in consultation with the owners, English Heritage staff, the conservation officer and the contractor.
Outcome: The barn is now safe and secure and the owners have been involved in preliminary discussions with the Local Authorities and English Heritage over permissible low-key uses that would preserve the essential character of the barn, allow public access and generate income to maintain it. The project demonstrates that it can often take time to assess a building and devise appropriate repair and re-use strategy relevant to the importance of the building but suitable for sustainable future use.
Keywords: Assessment and Characterisation, Re-use, Repair, Reconstruction & Restoration
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