1. ITV Report

Combermere Abbey undergoes astonishing 25-year makeover

Combermere Abbey undergoes astonishing 25-year makeover Credit: Paul Crone

Nearly 25 years in the making, the restoration of Combermere Abbey is almost complete.

The ambitious restoration project lead by owner Sarah Callander-Beckett will see doors open to the public for the first time in the abbey's history.

'Lady of the Manor', Sarah Callander Beckett, has been the driving force behind the project since inheriting the building in 1992 and has worked tirelessly for 20 years to raise the £2 million needed to complete the project to the high standard required.

Sarah took on the mammoth project later in life and previously worked as international PR director for Laura Ashley. Sarah's story presents a number of unique aspects; she is the sole heir to the abbey, having inherited directly from her mother.

Combermere Abbey undergoes astonishing 25-year makeover Credit: Paul Crone

Guided by the support of other women undertaking the same challenges in their own estates across the UK, along with the aid of her husband, she has successfully undertaken the restoration of the abbey which plans to open its doors in April 2016 for the first time to the public, in a move to diversify the estate's income and secure its future for generations to come.

Combermere Abbey began life as a Cistercian monastery in 1133, was dissolved under Henry VIII, rebuilt as a Tudor mansion and, in the late 1820’s remodelled in the then popular gothic style by Sir Stapleton Cotton, before finally becoming a home after being bought by Sir Kenneth Crossley following the First World War. Not only has the architectual fabric of the building changed over the centuries, but it has also recieved several royal and other notable visitors over the years including The Duke of Wellington and William of Orange.

Combermere Abbey undergoes astonishing 25-year makeover Credit: Paul Crone

Another character who has played a key role in the project is Sarah's Archivist, Steven Myatt. Sarah's family did not acquire any records and archives generally found in old historic houses so Steven, 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, was employed to delve into the depths of Combermere’s ancestry and tales.

Sarah said:

Starting from scratch it has been a mammoth task putting the jigsaw pieces together but the project has offered 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.

– Sarah Callander-Beckett