English Heritage Press Release
18th April 2002
DORE ABBEY DELVE OFFERS LIFELINE TO RURAL ECONOMY
£278,000 English Heritage Grant Answers 850 Years of Prayer and Brings Back
Today (Thursday 18 April), Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage,
visited Abbey Dore in Herefordshire to support the resurgence of traditional
British stone slate manufacturing and local ancient skills in an area still
recovering from Foot and Mouth.
The English Heritage grant of £278,100 to save Dore Abbey, one of Europe's
most ancient and magnificent ecclesiastical buildings, now a village parish
church, has enabled a new local stone slate enterprise that will provide
over 17,000 tiles for repairs to the chancel and transept roof and expand to
help other historic buildings in the area. The grant offer covers 80% of
repair costs to the Abbey and brings the total amount given by English
Heritage to £361,041.
Sir Neil Cossons said: " We are delighted to be supporting this project with
both grant aid and specialist advice. It is essential that buildings such as
this internationally renowned Grade 1 listed church, which still encompasses
the original 12th century Cistercian monastery, are repaired using high
quality local materials that match those of the originals. The use of
natural stone from local delves (small quarries) is a vital part of the
character of our towns, villages and farmsteads. We have long championed the
preservation of stone roofing - one of the greatest traditional crafts.
"For the third time in 850 years, the local community will benefit from
large construction work at the Abbey. Local people are being trained in
traditional techniques that date back hundreds of years, to extract and
dress the stones for roofing. This enterprise provides alternative
employment for a rural community rocked by the repercussions of Foot and
Mouth. Following restoration of the Abbey, many hundreds of other buildings
in Herefordshire that need re-roofing and repairing with traditional stone
will also benefit. It is a wonderful example of how building conservation
and local small-scale industry can be a positive force for local
"The future of Dore Abbey was in jeopardy. The costs of urgently needed
re-roofing works were well beyond the reach of this small but determined
community. Without these repairs this splendid historic building, that has
seen 850 years of uninterrupted worship, could close and fall into ruin. It
is testament to the organisation and committed fundraising of local people
that we have been able to support this excellent scheme. We applaud the hard
work and dedication of The Friends of Dore Abbey and the Parish of Abbey
Dore and the outstanding success of the Herefordshire Stone Tile Project and
the support it has received from Herefordshire District Council, local
farmers and volunteers."
It was during previous English Heritage funded repair work to the Abbey that
the extent of roof damage was discovered. Roof tiles crumbled to the touch
and it was estimated that only a third of tiles covering the huge 900m2 roof
could be re-used. Stonework on parapets was leaking, copings and facings
were badly decayed and a 13th century sacristy wall needed stabilising.
Repairs to secure the fabric of the church are now under way and further
work on the chancel, ambulatory range, transept and aisles and urgent
masonry repairs to the monastic ruins will follow.
Following support from local farmers and landowners, two new conservation
quarries or delves have been re-opened in Coed Major and Grigland near the
Welsh border. Quarrying for stone slates or tiles has always been a
small-scale industry with extremely low visual and environmental impact.
Each village would traditionally lift stone by hand from its own local
delves. The threat to Britains rich heritage of stone roofing was challenged
by English Heritage's Our Roofs of England campaign launched in 1997. The
campaign has already seen the re-opening of a number of conservation
quarries and the best supply of stone slates available for 50 years.
Pictures are available free to the press on www.papicselect.com. Go to
Arts/English Heritage/Abbey Dore
To Register call Tiffinni Field on 020 7674 0200
The grant is offered under the Joint Grant Scheme for Churches and Other
Places of Worship, which English Heritage runs in partnership with the HLF.
A further grant offer of £28,838 under the Secular Grant Scheme has been
offered for repairs to the scheduled sacristy ruins.
The Friends of Dore Abbey was founded in 1994 to save the church from
closure and it is the committed fundraising and impressive organisation of
this voluntary team that has secured the generous 80% English Heritage
The Herefordshire Stone Tile Project is a trust set up at the launch of Our
Roofs Of England programme to investigate sourcing stone slates or tiles for
the restoration of Dore Abbey. The trust is advised by English Heritage and
will expand its role to help other buildings in Herefordshire.
Dore Abbey is now St Mary's, Anglican Parish Church for the village of Abbey
Dore. The Norman Cistercian Abbey was founded in 1147 by White Monks. The
chancel area and transepts are still in use and the monastic ruins of the
nave act as flying buttresses to the west wall of the current church.
13th and 14th century paint traces show it would have been a riot of colour
inside. The abbey would have been surrounded by gardens and orchards.
The church is full of glorious examples of intricate Jacobean sculpture,
18th century wall paintings, carved screens and elaborate bosses, with
themes like the green man, coronation of the Virgin and Christ in majesty.
One terminal features a wolf's head, thought to commemorate King Edward1's
order to destroy all the wolves in Hereford, Gloucester, Salop, Stafford and
On the dissolution of the monasteries wooden bosses were taken down and
hidden but the stone altar was lost in 1536. It was rediscovered in 1630
being used for salting meat on a nearby farm.
When in 1638, Lord Scudamore's daughter had trouble carrying a child, the
Arch bishop of Canterbury suggested spending the equivalent of £1million to
make what remained of the Abbey into a village church. Under Lord Scudamore,
who felt guilty for inheriting church lands, John Abel, carpenter to Charles
1, created glorious Jacobean screens inside the church as well as other
ceilings, corbels and furnishings. A tower was built which housed three of
the original abbey bells.
The church was painstakingly restored between 1895 and 1904 by local
architect Roland W Paul, who discovered a screen featuring the coat of arms
of Charles 1 which had been plastered over and so unwittingly preserved by
A miracle was recorded at the church in1318 and on Tuesday 6th October 1321
a portion of the wood of the Holy Cross was donated by William de Grandison