Delapre Abbey Conservation: Reopening With A Jousting Tournament

 In Historic Buildings

Delapre Abbey in Northampton has recently reopened after a complex, multiyear renovation project that brought the medieval nunnery into modern use as an event space, as well as reinvigorating its historical mission. The site of the Abbey in on a historical battlefield, and the building itself has undergone a number of uses and changes over time. With documented history of nearly a thousand years, the renovation included a number of complex investigations and studies before any work could begin. In addition to infrastructure work and a complete roof repair and replacement, scholars analysed materials used at different times in the building’s history, and archaeologists documented the site while carefully minimising disruption of the battlefield.

One of the most significant finds during the archaeologists’ academic work on the site was finding several previously unknown structures that dated to medieval times, including a cellar and plunge pool. In addition, artefacts were uncovered that dated to use on the site from Roman times, including glass phials, copper pins, and multiple pottery pieces. While archaeologists knew that there were Roman settlements nearby, no one had documented the Abbey site as one of Roman use.

The expensive, complex restoration was paid for by a collaboration of various agencies, including the lottery and the local council. Included in the renovation were upgrades such as the addition of a commercial kitchen, so the Abbey can be used for events such as weddings with catering onsite. It is hoped by those involved in the expensive renovation that using part of the site for events can offset some of the continuing cost for upkeep, continuing renovation, and care of the battlefield site.

The Battle of Northampton occurred in July, 1460, during the civil war known as the War of the Roses. York and Lancastrian forces battled on an open field adjacent to the Abbey with nearly sixty thousand men. This battlefield site, and the adjacent Abbey that has seen so many changes and uses, are protected by the careful restoration and conservation work of a community that values cultural history.

Find out more about historic building conservation.

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