South Somerset is very rich in heritage and has more listed buildings than almost every other district in the Country. The District Council’s Conservation Team maintains a heritage at risk register and works with owners to improve the condition of buildings.
Currently there are over 60 buildings on the register, ranging from industrial sites to church yard memorials, all at risk of further deterioration and some requiring urgent attention. Whilst rescuing the buildings can be a complicated and lengthy process, the Conservation Team continues to deliver schemes which result in buildings being saved, with some going on to win local and national awards.
Whitestaunton Manor is amongst Somerset’s most archaeologically complex and historically intriguing houses. Dating from c. AD1446, it has been augmented throughout the following five and a half centuries and contains the county’s best example of a medieval hammer beam roof. It is one of only ten thousand grade I listed buildings in the country and ranks alongside Montacute House for historic importance.
Some ten years ago when the current owners, Mr and Mrs Moore, acquired the building, it was a different story. Years of lack of investment were showing and hidden structural issues came to light during building works which showed that, without timely works to the walls, the 500 year old hammer beam roof could have collapsed into the courtyard.
The owner has undertaken extensive works of repair and has worked closely with the council’s Conservation Team to ensure that the works were undertaken in such a way as to conserve the special features of the building, whilst gently adapting it for a house relevant to the 21st century. The opportunity was also taken by the owners to reveal some of the important features of the building that have been covered up in the past.
A council spokesman said, “Superficially the Manor was not that bad condition, but once work started on the roof structure, hundreds of years of bodging were exposed. The hammer beam roof was supported on a beam that was acting like a see-saw, with the other end being imbedded in an outer wall which was on the verge of collapse under the loading it was supporting. The works undertaken here have been to the highest quality and have gone on to win the National Wood Award for Conservation. It is certain that the owner has saved the building for at least the next couple of generations”.
Ric Pallister, Leader of South Somerset District Council said, “This is a little known part of the Council’s areas of responsibility but an important one given the number of high quality historic buildings in the district. It is a very specialised area and a privilege to work with responsible owners who are the guardians of our heritage and it doesn’t stop with our conservation team. Owning a historic building can be an expensive business and many owners have to find ways of contributing towards the upkeep. Our Tourism team is always ready and willing to provide advice and assistance with marketing if the owner decides to bring in the public to make a contribution. Whitestaunton Manor is a classic example of owner and Council working closely together to preserve South Somerset’s heritage and everyone involved has been delighted with the end result.”