We have saved and restored many historic buildings and structures in the Cambridge area including those on the Wandlebury Estate, such as the remains of an Iron-Age hillfort, an 18th century country estate & stables and 15th century granary.

Saving the Wandlebury Estate

During the late 1930s we ran a significant and successful campaign to prevent housing development spreading onto the Gog Magog Hills, south of Cambridge. Through our “Save the Gogs” campaign the charity had raised sufficient funds to be able to purchase land in the hills. The last private owners of the Wandlebury Estate were the Grey family. Following World War II and then the death of Sir Harold Grey, the estate had become dilapidated and the charity entered into negotiations to purchase the estate for public benefit. This was achieved in 1954, although at great financial cost to the charity. It took 15 years of work for the estate to be put into a sufficient condition that it could be officially opened to the public on 1 August 1959.

Iron Age Hill-fort

There are nationally important iron-age archaeological remains at Wandlebury, which are designated as a Scheduled Monument. The most visible of these are the remains of one the circular ditch ramparts for the fort (known as the Ring Ditch). In order to try and prevent damage to this feature we have been managing some of the trees which grow on the ditch banks to try and avoid trees falling over and damaging the monument. We cut and remove some shrubby vegetation to prevent the ditch becoming infilled. We also try to discourage children from running up and down the banks too much by using dead-hedging (however the will of children is not easily overcome!). In doing so we are trying to strike a balance between conserving the historic and the natural heritage of the site and enabling visitors to experience that heritage.

18th Century Estate & Stables

Unfortunately, by the time the charity purchased Wandlebury the main house was already so dilapidated that a decision was made for it to be demolished. Most of the stable blocks were sold for conversion into residential houses in order to help fund the costs of purchasing Wandlebury.

By 1977 the distinctive clock tower and cupola at Wandlebury had deteriorated and extensive work was carried out by the charity in order to restore them to their former glory.

All the estate buildings and structures are Grade II listed. This includes the 18th century wall surrounding the estate gardens which was overgrown with ivy and was in a very poor condition. Since 2003, 450 metres of the wall have been restored at a cost of around £200,000. There remains one outstanding 70 metre section - and fundraising is underway for the restoration of this section.

We continue to carry out running repairs and maintenance on the historic buildings and structures at Wandlebury.

The Tadlow Granary

This small granary was originally built c1415. It was part of a group of agricultural buildings at Tadlow Manor Farm in Cambridgeshire and it is thought that it was moved in the 18th century. By 1967 the granary was in a state of dereliction and planned to be demolished. We were alarmed by this and when our research revealed that there was only one other granary of similar construction in Britain we set out to save it. The charity raised funds for the Avoncroft Museum of Buildings (Bromsgrove) to dismantle the granary piece by piece and transport it to Wandlebury. It was another 10 years before sufficient funds had been raised to reconstruct the granary.

Most of the original building was used but some timber replacements were needed. Roof rafters were replaced with coppiced oak from Bradfield Wood, near Burt St Edmunds. Architect Graham Black, meticulous in every detail, learned the skill of using an adze, a cutting tool with an arched blade, and passed on the skill to local craftsmen who abandoned their power tools for a couple of days. Other minute details were faithfully copied. Narrow handmade bricks for the piers upon which the granary rests were bought from Sudbury, Suffolk, and the correct cleftbattens were supplied by the West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village Trust in Suffolk. Even the tiles were replaced and fixed with wooden pegs. The restoration was completed in 1981 at a cost of £20,000.

The granary is a wonderful building that we would like to make better use of, however it has a healthy population of bats roosting in the roof – and their droppings mean we are not able to open it for public use at present.

Caring for ancient monuments, archaeological sites and historic buildings is not easy and costs a lot of money. Please help support our work by joining us or making a donation.