St Benet’s Abbey at Horning receives �671,000 Lottery grant
It has been immortalised by generations of artists including painters from the 19th-century Norwich School.
And it provides one of the most iconic views on the Broads adored by locals and boating holidaymakers alike.
Now thanks to a �671,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant the ruins of St Benet's Abbey next to the River Bure at Horning are to be preserved for future generations.
The announcement of the award, which with other funding will allow an �800,000 project to begin, was made at the isolated site yesterday on a beautiful spring day which showed off its splendour to the maximum degree.
The familiar medieval abbey gatehouse and adjoining 18th-century windmill will now be covered in scaffolding within days to allow specialist builders from Suffolk firm John Hogg to start work.
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Peter Wade-Martins, director of Norfolk Archaeological Trust, said: 'Crumbling mortar will be raked out and replaced with fresh lime mortar; some brickwork on the windmill will be replaced. The work needs to be finished by September or the mortar will not set.'
In a second phase of restoration likely to be completed next year, the other remains of the 1,000-year-old abbey – the precinct walls and church ruins – will be preserved in the same way.
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Dr Wade-Martins said the project had been conceived when the trust bought the site from the Crown Estate in the 1990s.
He said: 'There were management issues we felt we could resolve; the River Bure was badly eroding the site at the time and medieval masonry was falling in the river.
'The first step was to persuade the Environment Agency to restore the bank.'
The current scheme will also include new interpretation panels to explain such features as the monastic fish ponds which are still visible, and the site's history.
Following agreement from the Crown Estate, which owns surrounding marshland, a track can now be used by the public and a new car park is to be built by the Broads Authority as part of its contribution to the project.
There are also plans for a new riverside footpath linking St Benet's Abbey to the tourist hub at Ludham Bridge.
Dr Wade-Martins said: 'We would still encourage people to come by boat rather than car and there are excellent moorings nearby.'
He described it as a 'people's project' and said local residents would be involved through workshops and seminars explaining the scheme; a special website would also be set up.
He said: 'St Benet's is a special and evocative landmark in the Norfolk landscape and it is a tremendous boost to the trust that we have been awarded such a generous grant.'
Robyn Llewellyn, head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: 'We are delighted to be able to support the conservation of this beautiful heritage site.
'Thanks to this project, visitors will be able to learn more about the fascinating history of the remains.'
Stephen Johnson, chairman of the Broads Authority, which is contributing �58,000, said: 'It has been a longstanding ambition of the Broads Authority to see better access and more information provided for the millions of people who visit the area every year.'