The Welsh Georgian Trust’s Gunter mansion restoration moves one step closer as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Architectural Heritage Fund have announced that they are awarding grants towards an in-depth archaeological and building research survey. The Heritage Lottery Fund award of £10,000 is alongside that of £5,000 already pledged by the Architectural Heritage Fund.
Gunter Mansion is a Grade II* listed, largely 17th Century, town house formerly belonging to the Gunter family. It contains an incredibly important Catholic chapel dating from the late 17th Century which was hidden for over two centuries and rediscovered in the early 20th Century.
The two grant bodies recognise that the project is of local and national significance. These grants will enable the Trust to provide evidence-based answers to some key questions, such as to the original date of the building, its uses, and how much of the building was originally used for the chapel.
As part of the application process the Trust invited tenders for the survey from a number of conservation architectural practices, and the project has been awarded to local firm Morgan and Horowskyj. Their surveying team will include a number of historical building specialists and the initial results are expected by the end of June.
The Welsh Georgian Trust acquired Gunter Mansion and its secret 17th Century Catholic chapel in Abergavenny thanks to grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and the Pilgrim Trust in 2017. Additional funding was raised by a crowd funding campaign, which attracted widespread support.
The chapel became notorious in the 1670s, at a pivotal time in British history. The Catholic activities at Gunter were so shocking that they were reported to Parliament and created the atmosphere for the Titus Oates plot which quickly followed, initiating a wave of anti-Catholic paranoia, to which the king had no option but to respond.
In 1678 Charles II issued a warrant for the immediate arrest of all papists and Jesuits. The priests Philip Evans and David Lewis, who regularly held mass at the Chapel in Gunter were arrested by the end of the year and subsequently condemned to death for their religion. David Lewis then became the last Catholic martyr in Wales.
The resultant increase in sectarian tension effectively ruled out any accommodation of Catholicism within Britain, paving the way for the crisis over James II’s Catholicism less than ten years later, which led directly to the Glorious Revolution.
As well as a particularly fine 17th Century plaster ceiling on the first floor, the second-floor chapel contains important graffiti dating from the 17th Century Gunter ownership which gives incredible insight into the period. In recent years the building has been neglected and at risk of serious decay. Once the specialist building survey has been completed the Trust intends to apply for future funding to enable the restoration to take place.
Andrew Beckett, Chairman of The Welsh Georgian Trust, said: “We now have a fantastic opportunity to make Gunter Mansion a great asset to Abergavenny and this part of Wales and the funding we have secured for the building survey will, we hope, uncover more of its secrets. We aim to restore the building so that will use it people can experience a fascinating and important part of our history, which will resonate with people on so many different levels.”
Richard Bellamy, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, neglected or run-down historic buildings are not only rescued but conserved for future generations to enjoy and learn from. The Gunter Mansion project will help reveal the hidden history of a building, showing how it can provide an important link to a community’s roots.”
Matthew McKeague, Chief Executive of the Architectural Heritage Fund said: "This is a building of significant historical importance. Creating viable uses for buildings requires close collaboration and consultation with the local community and the strength of support is evident through the large number of 'Friends of Gunter Mansion'. We're pleased to be supporting the project at this vital, early stage and will continue to support the Welsh Georgian Trust as they seek to identify sustainable uses for Gunter Mansion."
For more details about the Gunter Mansion project and The Welsh Georgian Trust please visit the Trust’s website www.welshgeorgiantrust.org.uk or contact the Trust’s office administrator Ben Baugh on 01873 568 068 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
ABOUT THE WELSH GEORGIAN TRUST
The Welsh Georgian Trust is a Building Preservation Trust using Architectural Heritage Fund and Charity Commission approved Memorandum and Articles of Association. We are a company limited by guarantee, a registered charity. Our trustees have vast experience of the historic environment in Wales. We have an office in Monmouth but cover all of Wales and the Marches.
Our objects are to preserve for the benefit of the people of Wales and the Welsh Marches and of the Nation, the historical, architectural and constructional heritage that may exist in and around Wales and the Welsh Marches in Georgian and Pre-Georgian buildings (including any structure or erection, and any part of a building as so defined) of particular beauty or historical, architectural or constructional interest.
For more information please visit www.welshgeorgiantrust.org.uk
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. www.hlf.org.uk Follow us on facebook HLFWales and Twitter @HLFCymru
About the Architectural Heritage Fund
The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976, to promote the conservation and sustainable reuse of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in areas of deprivation. We are the leading heritage social investor and the only specialist heritage lender operating in the UK.