Historic Stoven ceiling being restored in Lowestoft

It is a rare example of 17th century decor which came close to rack and ruin. But a 350-year-old north Suffolk ceiling is having its fortunes restored thanks to a �73,000 scheme in Lowestoft.

Spearheaded by the Cliveden Conversation Group, the Jubilee Ceiling project is revamping the historic plaster work for display at the Lowestoft Heritage Workshop Centre.

It comes after the relic was salvaged from a crumbling grade-II listed farmhouse at Stoven, near Halesworth, before being stored in a garage for nearly 30 years.

Experts are confident the ceiling was made by the same workmen who created the revered 17th century ceiling at Sutherland House in Southwold – and could be of greater value.

It is being pieced back together by conservator Katie Langridge and trainee conservator Daniel Chapman under the guiding hand of 53-year-old senior conservator Fiona Kelsey.

Mr Chapman, 27, from Lowestoft, had no previous experience of restoration work, but landed the job after demonstrating his enthusiasm for history and heritage skills.

He said: 'I love history and this was the chance to do something that I love. We're working on something that is hundreds of years old and you have to pinch yourself really.'

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Organisers are also enlisting school pupils, college students and local volunteers to help restore the ceiling panels in workshops to promote the importance of heritage skills.

The 12 pieces of ceiling were stored in a Waveney District Council garage, in Rectory Road, Lowestoft, after being recovered when the farmhouse was demolished in 1978.

The ceiling shares motifs with the ornate plaster work at Sutherland House, which was the temporary headquarters of the Admiralty – providing a home for the Duke of York (King James II) and Admiral Edward Montagu, the 1st Earl of Sandwich.

Conservators described the project as being like a 'giant jigsaw puzzle' since the painstaking restoration work began last month. They hope it will be finished by October when the ceiling will be revealed in its new home at The Heritage Workshop Centre in High Street.

The Heritage Lottery fund has pledged �60,000 for the work, while grants were also received from the Pilgrim Trust, Country Houses Foundation, Adnams Charity, Suffolk County Council and Suffolk county councillor Mary Rudd.

Groups taking part in the project include Lowestoft College, Brampton and Ringsfield CEVC Primary Schools and Sir John Leman High School, Beccles.

If you want to learn plaster conservation techniques you can take part in a series of six workshops at Lowestoft Heritage Workshop Centre. The Cliveden Conservation Workshop will be every Tuesday from July 17 to August 21. Places are free, but only 10 people can take part at a time. To book visit www.lowestoftheritage.org

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