Dover District Council and Coombs have marked the start of the Kearsney Abbey café restoration and extension.
Cllr Trevor Bartlett, Cabinet Member for Corporate Property was joined by members of the Coombs’ team to break ground on a 180m² new build extension to the Kearsney Abbey café. The project also includes restoration of the Grade II listed billiards room, the only remaining structure from the mansion which originally stood on the site.
Cllr Trevor Bartlett, Cabinet Member for Corporate Property, said: “Today marks the start of the major capital works at Kearsney Abbey following many months of preparatory ecology and conservation work. It’s an exciting time for the parks which play an important role as a valued community amenity for local people, a haven for nature, and as a popular visitor attraction.”
Kearsney Abbey and neighbouring Russell Gardens make up one of the most popular public parks in East Kent, attracting thousands of visitors every year. Their popularity is set to grow with a £3.1m investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to restore historic parkland features, including Thomas Mawson’s original 1900 design for Russell Gardens, then known as Kearsney Court.
“Today marks the start of the major capital works at Kearsney Abbey following many months of preparatory ecology and conservation work.
“It’s an exciting time for the parks which play an important role as a valued community amenity for local people, a haven for nature, and as a popular visitor attraction.”
Cllr Trevor Bartlett, Cabinet Member for Corporate Property.
The café extension at Kearsney Abbey is an integral part of the HLF supported project to provide a better visitor experience, with a larger café incorporating new toilets, a Changing Places facility, and space to support community volunteering and education activities. The building will extend to the east of the billiards room, re-creating an impression of the mass and spread of the original mansion house.
The restoration of the billiards room includes works to repair and conserve the original oak panelling, along with the wooden and ornate plaster grotesques. There will also be extensive repairs to the stained glass in the building, including the lantern which features images of billiard cues, flowers and leaves.
Uncovering the history of the former mansion
Prior to construction work starting, forty seven volunteers joined Canterbury Archaeological Trust to complete a two week excavation of the car park uncovering more about the history of the former mansion. Cllr Trevor Bartlett said: “This was an excellent opportunity for local people to get involved in uncovering the history of one of the district’s former grand country estates.”
One of today's finds from our Great Mansions of the Past dig – a military button cleaner! Come along to see more of our finds this Friday (19th Oct) 11am – 2pm in Kearsney Abbey @HLFSouthEast @CantArchTrust pic.twitter.com/hXAKB0oKxU
— Kearsney Parks (@Kearsneyparks) October 16, 2018
Kearsney Abbey is a fine example of a former country house and estate. The history of the site can be traced back to the Norman Conquest. Then known as Castney Court, part of the Barony of Saye, whose men maintained and garrisoned the Saye Tower at Dover Castle.
Although never a monastic estate, it takes its name from the impressive Gothic revival manor house built between 1820-1822 by local merchant and banker, John Minet Fector (1754-1821). Unfortunately he died in 1821 before Kearsney Abbey had been completed, but it remained a family residence until 1844.