Researching, recording and documenting: Unlocking the history of the Abbey

Whilst my main aim is to restore the North Wing to its former glory the various discoveries of artefacts and historical parts of the building have been undeniably intriguing, which has also led me to explore the history of the abbey even further by employing an archivist to delve into the depths of Combermere’s ancestry and tales.

Steven Myatt, a keen biker and classic car restorer, who has undertaken many research tasks throughout his working life as a features writer, magazine publisher and most recently, novelist, has undertaken a series of research tasks for me and has been expertly documenting discoveries and the restoration programme on the Abbey’s dedicated online blog which recently, has been re-developed and re-launched as an interactive timetable – http://www.combermere-restoration.co.uk/

This project has offered us a wonderful and unique opportunity to actually uncover and record the early archaeological history of the house and to set it in its proper social context both locally and nationally.

My family did not acquire any records and archives generally found in old historic houses, and with such a long and diverse tale to tell it was an opportunity not to be missed. Hopefully it will be centuries before the building will be exposed again and her secrets revealed again. It has been like the discovery of a treasure trove!

By creating an on-line presence, anyone has been able to access it as the discoveries have taken place, and it will be there into the future. It has allowed the public and our existing fans to follow the restoration story while the house is shut.

Steven has been the perfect partner in this part of the journey as his talents as a researcher and a writer have created a wonderful tapestry of its history and those who lived here as well as those who have brought their talents to restore it.

With the restoration well underway, we’ve been focusing work on the North Wing, with additional exploration of the art, the house’s genealogy and literature in The Library, and creating a whole catalogue of restoration activities documenting the talents of the local craftsmen and artisans involved.

A lot of the history of the Abbey has never been documented or placed in its historical context. Since the current incumbent, who inherited the Abbey in the 1990s, has undertaken this mammoth task, pieces of the jigsaw are coming together.

For example, thanks to the restoration we discovered an eighteenth century map of the estate and using that we have been able to deduce a lot of new information about the house and its surroundings before and during the eighteenth century.

Each day there is a new find, and it’s always surprising to see what the tradesmen working on the project find it’s also fascinating to think that without this project it would never have been uncovered!

For stories around the restoration, the fantastic history of the building as well as highlight long hidden features revealed along the way, and profiling some of the trades and people involved – including our researcher and resident archivist, Steven Myatt.

Visit http://www.combermere-restoration.co.uk/ for the full story on the history of Combermere Abbey and the restoration project.