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Conservation work continues on Abbey Park’s historic precinct walls

Published on Monday, April 19, 2021

Abbot Penny's wall

THE latest phase of a major programme of work to repair and preserve the historic precinct wall at Leicester’s Abbey Park is now underway.

The wall – which dates to the early 16th century – stretches all the way around the western side of Abbey Park, known as Abbey Grounds. The historic Abbey Grounds are a scheduled monument and the wall itself is a grade I-listed structure. It is thought to be one of the earliest examples of medieval brickwork in the country, and its intricate diaper work patterns can still be clearly seen on Abbot Penny’s Wall from St Margaret’s Way.

The wall has suffered from ongoing deterioration over many decades and suffered localised collapse in two locations along Abbey Park Road around five years ago. A structural survey carried out in 2019 highlighted concerns about the ongoing safety of the historical structure and outlined all necessary repair and restoration work.

Leicester City Council is now investing around £540,000 in the expert conservation work required. This includes works recently completed to the historic remains of Cavendish House, which provides a striking entrance to the park.

Work to Cavendish House has included expert cleaning, repointing of stonework, repairs to the stone window frames and filling in voids in the walls to avoid future damage from water and vegetation.

Leicester Abbey, including the precinct wall, and Cavendish House are both currently on Historic England’s national Heritage at Risk Register. 

A stretch of the precinct wall itself – located inside the park between the abbey ruins and the River Soar – was identified as being at imminent risk of failure due to damage caused by nearby trees.

As a result, an initial phase of remedial work was carried out in early 2018. This involved the careful removal of seventeen trees and a soil embankment that had been deposited against the wall following excavations carried out in 1925.

Further repairs to this stretch of wall – including pinning the wall using engineering earth ties and repointing its entire 170m length – have also been carried out.

A new avenue of elm trees has also been planted nearby in the park to compensate for the trees lost as part of this essential repair work.

Deputy City Mayor and city council heritage champion Cllr Adam Clarke said: “Leicester Abbey, and Abbey Park itself, are among the city’s historic treasures and it is vital that we protect and cherish these wonderful assets for future generations.

“This latest phase of our ongoing and ambitious programme of specialist repairs and restoration work will hopefully see the Abbey precinct wall and the historic of Cavendish House removed from the nation heritage at risk register, adding to our growing success in preserving the city’s architectural heritage.”

Work on Abbey precinct walls will be carried out by specialist contractors Messengers Construction and is expected to take around 12 months to complete. Some temporary footpath closures may be required, but these will be clearly signposted with diversions.