14 Mar 14

More secrets of the Medieval age revealed at Cannington Court

Local residents had a rare chance to delve into the fascinating past of one of Somerset's historic houses at an open day held this month at Cannington Court.

EDF Energy, in partnership with Bridgwater College, is currently restoring Cannington Court as a state-of-the-art training campus for employees in the UK. Remains of the former 13th century Priory complex were revealed during construction work for a new garden area as part of the sensitive restoration project.

It was the first opportunity for archaeologists to investigate this part of the site and whilst the presence of such remains was suspected, the recent investigations offered the first solid evidence of their survival. Remains of ancillary buildings associated with the secular use of the site were identified and recorded alongside excavation of the walls, rooms and associated features.

The property was originally founded by Robert de Courcy in 1138 and has enjoyed an interesting history including service as a Priory, Benedictine nunnery, family home and a school.

Finds during earlier stages of the restoration work included early medieval buildings, water culverts and floor surfaces as well as pottery dating from the 10th-12th centuries and a large fragment of mill stone.

Around 140 local visitors, including an enthusiastic group of 30 pupils and teachers from Cannington Church of England Primary school, took up the opportunity to see the finds and talk with members of the archaeology team involved.

Steve Thompson, an archaeologist from Wessex Archaeology said: "It was a great opportunity to explain some of the painstaking work carried out on this historic site. There were certainly plenty of questions around what we have found and the building is clearly one of great interest and affection locally. It's also been a fascinating project for us archaeologists to be involved with as it is a site rich in history."

The painstaking and laborious work of cleaning, identifying and interpreting the finds and other evidence will now take several months to complete. A report will then be produced and the archive deposited with the Museum of Somerset based in Taunton Castle.

EDF Energy's multi-million project to restore historical Cannington Court into a training centre for employees is well advanced, with the opening planned for the end of the year.

Marc Coltelli, head of Campus project for EDF Energy, said: "We have been really keen to respect the history of Cannington Court as well as to bring a new lease of life and purpose to the building. Sharing its past and importantly the future opportunities with our neighbours is a key part of the project."

In recognition of the historical value of the building, conservation work has been carried out using traditional skills, including stone masonry, carpentry, joinery, roofing, leadwork, glazing and lime rendering.

Work involved extensive masonry repairs, conservation repairs to windows, structural repairs to the roof and the installation of lightning protection and safe access measures, with workers careful to ensure the delicate ecology including wisteria, bats, nesting birds and bee hives was not disturbed.