Harvington Hall, our grade I listed Elizabethan moated manor house famed for its priest hides is celebrating after being awarded a grant of around £117,000 to repair its bridges.

Harvington Hall in Worcestershire boasts 14th-century building work that still survives behind a layer of brick. Harvington has the country’s finest collection of priest hides, with seven in total. The Hall’s association with the English Martyrs of the Counter Reformation makes it a place of pilgrimage for Catholics from across the country and beyond.

The Hall’s two bridges, which date from the 1700s, are the only way to access the hall which is on an island. The bridges are in need of repairs to ensure they can continue to be safely used, to allow visitor access and emergency vehicles.

Work on the bridges means that part of the moat will have to be drained, with archaeologists on hand to look for any hidden treasures from the Hall’s past.

The moat has not been drained since the 1930s, when archaeologists found spectacles, clay pipes and slipware plate fragments which have been reassembled and are now displayed in the Hall.

Harvington is one of the 17 sites funded by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, which received £2.9million from Historic England for urgent repair programmes under the second round of funding via the Heritage Stimulus Fund.

Administered on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) by Historic England, a total of 142 sites will receive support, bolstering local economies and supporting jobs across the country. 

Money from the government’s £2 billion Culture Recovery Fund is intended to open up heritage and the benefits it brings to everyone, helping to level up and improve life and opportunities for people in places that need it most. 

Harvington’s £117,000 grant will cover a large part of the cost of the works to the bridges, which is expected to run to nearly £150,000. The Hall will be launching a fundraising campaign for an extra £30,000 to hit its target. Until then donors can give directly to the Hall at: harvingtonhall.co.uk/donate

Work on Harvington’s moat will start at the end of October, as the Hall is only open for weekend visits after October 31st. The last day of opening is Sunday 19th December before reopening in February half term 2022. Visitors can book to attend special events over the festive season, including traditional music performances and Christmas wreath making.

Deacon Paul O’Connor, responsible for the Hall said:

“We are immensely grateful for the funding we have received from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, out of their grant from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund administered by Historic England. This generous grant is a great boost as we come out of lockdown and recognises the cultural importance of Harvington Hall as a unique place to be protected.”

Phil Downing, Hall Manager said:

“The Hall has greatly increased its offer since re-opening after lockdown and we hope that many more visitors will have the opportunity to discover the House of Secrets, and some of the most ingenious priest hides in the country. The works will not stop us from hosting our autumn and winter events and all are welcome”

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: 

"From local churches to ancient buildings and landscapes, the UK's unique heritage makes our towns, cities and villages stronger, more vibrant and helps bring communities together. 

"This latest funding - £35 million from our unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund - will help protect sites including Jane Austen's House and Hampton Court Palace for future generations and help them build back better from the pandemic."

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s Chief Executive, said: 

“Funding from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund is hugely welcome at a time when the people and organisations who look after our vast and varied array of heritage urgently need support to carry out essential repairs. Heritage is a fragile eco-system, with an amazing cast of characters who keep our historic places alive, with specialist skills that take time to learn and experience to perfect. These grants will protect their livelihoods, as they use their expertise to help our heritage survive.”

Harvington Hall