Transforming Mount Grace Priory
During the winter of 2017/18 we embarked on a major project and invested over £700,000 to give Mount Grace a new lease of life.
As one of the best surviving examples of a Carthusian priory in England, we wanted to bring out and celebrate the stories of this unique monastery from the medieval era through to the present day.
Renovations, replanting and conservation in the gardens, and a new café and ways to explore were all undertaken as part of the project. Find out more about the transformation process below.
What we did
- Renovated the Upper and Lower Terraces, and the Dell Garden, to enhance the Arts and Crafts style of these areas.
- Re-planted the monk's garden guided by recent research into how the monk's would have used this multi-functioning space.
- Reseeded wildflower areas to encourage wildlife and create informal play spaces for families.
- Carried out maintenance on the historic water courses, dredging silt from the moat and formal pond.
- Created an accessible experience for visitors with limited mobility by improving access from the car park.
- Built a new café among the woodland near the orchard.
Chris Beardshaw joined the team
We were delighted to have award winning gardener, Chris Beardshaw, as creative lead for this major gardens project. Chris used his expertise to create a design which brought the Arts and Crafts style of the manor house out into the garden.
The best of what was already growing in the garden was retained and new plants were added to create a spectacle for every season on the Terraces and in the Dell Garden.
In November 2017, a team of English Heritage's gardeners and volunteers came together to plant 27,000 new spring bulbs which covered almost 900m2 of the gardens. And the hard work continued until spring 2018 with the preparation of the beds, setting out, and planting of Chris' new design.
Conservation or restoration?
When planning the maintenance of the historic water courses we made the decision to conserve the existing bodies of water, rather than restore them to a particular period in history. Our main priority was to improve the water flow.
Opting to conserve allowed us to preserve the history of the water courses, from the monastic origins to the features added during renovations by Sir Lowthian Bell in the early 1900s.
An unbelievable 1,650 tonnes of silt was removed from the moat and formal pond during the project. That's enough silt to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool! And instead of going to landfill, the removed silt was used to improve the soil of local fields.
Creating the Orchard Café
Brims Construction worked through all kinds of weather to build the brand new café, which is made from sustainable timber and reclaimed slate.
Late November 2017
The cafe foundations are almost ready for the timber frame which is being manufactured off site.
Late December 2017
The timber frame is under construction.
Early March 2018
The roof slates were fixed in place during January and now the walls are bring clad.
The Arts and Crafts Movement
Sir Lowthian Bell, a wealthy industrialist, established the landscape which surrounds the house today, inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement. Bell also extended the manor house and decorated it in the Arts and Crafts style during 1900-1901.
Originating in England during the mid-19th century, the movement was a retaliation against mass production and was led by artist and designer William Morris. One-off, handcrafted furnishings became increasingly popular during this time.
Morris was famously quoted as saying, 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.' Many of Morris' medieval-inspired designs can still be seen in the manor house today.
We worked to bring out more of the Arts and Crafts style in the gardens during this project.
Get involved volunteering
Help us bring our story to life for visitors or get green fingered in the garden. You can join the friendly team at Mount Grace by volunteering with us. It's a great chance to meet new people and learn new skills.
Are you interested in horticulture? We're currently looking for garden volunteers to help our Head Gardener, James, maintain the newly re-designed gardens.Find out more
We would like to thank the following for their generous support of this project:
The Wolfson Foundation
The North York Moors National Park Authority
The Tinsley Charitable Trust
The Sir George Martin Trust