From chapel to apple-of-our-eye. An estate concealed on the edge of Charnwood forest is a shortlist contender for a ProCon Award – here’s why Abbots Oak, beloved in all its medieval glory, was nominated.
The stately home of Abbots Oak has been gently transported into the 21st Century by its current owners Sarah and Anthony Kurr, who purchased the abandoned property in 2013 having fallen in love with it at first sight.
Over four years of hard work, fortitude, full time jobs on top and DIY has earned Abbots Oak Phase 1 a place on the shortlist for the Regeneration Project of the Year Award at the ProCon Leicestershire 2017 awards. It is Leicestershire’s ‘biggest celebration of the built environment’ and the regeneration award will be bestowed upon the developer, owner or designer of a building, scheme or landmark that has acted as a catalyst for the regeneration of the wider area and created opportunities for jobs, facilities for local residents and community groups, and presented a quality sustainable design.
Anthony said: “We lived in a cold, damp building site for four years but the results are worth it. We’ve worked hard to give people locally and nationally, modern day access to a historically important and architecturally ambitious house.”
It has been a period of incredible change for Abbots Oak since its new owners moved into its history-stained walls equipped with the determination to restore the love the public once held strong for the building – that’s everyone from the farmer down the road to the likes of King Charles II.
Its internal area spreads across 936 sq. meters set in grounds of four acres close to Coalville and Whitwick with the Charnwood Nature Reserve just across the road and Bardon Hill to the south of the building; the highest point in Leicestershire just 19 ft. short of a mountain. The ancient tower itself has a top floor reaching 814 ft. above sea level, which Sarah and Anthony claim is the highest inhabited house in Leicestershire.
The couple explained to us that Abbots Oak was originally a chapelry out post for the Garendon Abbey in Loughborough and the chapel closed down in 1536 and since then served the community in many other ways. During the English Civil War, the transcendent structure was used as garrison and stables for the royalists loyal to King Charles I.
The Kurr’s research also found that in the 1850s it was taken on by local solicitor and architect Thomas Nevinson. He developed with gothic features and developed the building including that of a grand, intricately designed stair case that was taken from the Pall Mall home of Nell Gwyn, mistress of King Charles II and installed at Abbots Oak. There was a gap in unknown history and then the White family owned Abbots Oak from 1945 where they brought up their family.
Now in the hands of Sarah and Anthony who lived under the leaky roofs and unheated walls of Abbots Oak whilst they put their new home under extensive repairs and restoration. These included the rebuilding of five chimneys and wood stoves, replaced guttering, new underground services, electricity, underfloor heating, double glazing where possible and renewal of original Victorian windows, with the tower being the most complex restoration. The couple aims to have nine double bedrooms and be able to entertain for a party of 120 in the new orangery.
Sarah explained: “The project has created so many prospects for a lot of businesses and individuals from simply us reminiscing with the locals about their memories of Abbots Oak right through to a company who came into do some unbelievable work to restore many of the interior Victorian features.”
Suppliers have included M Snutch Building contractors, HSSP architects, Renownd Chef Paul Leary, Bradagate Events, Dimblebee Catering, Burleigh Gins, Charnwood Brewery, and many others.
“To be shortlisted for such a respected award is just such an achievement in itself after four years of everything we’ve been through with Abbots Oak. We’re incredibly grateful to be considered and this recognition means more than we can say, not just to us but to the local community who have put just as much love, support and time into as us,” Anthony commented.
The sell-out showcase of the industry’s achievements is the fifteenth ProCon Awards and will be held on 9th November 2017 at The King Power Stadium in Leicester.
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