Grace Dieu Priory
Official website for the Friends of Grace Dieu Priory
Whatever the season of the year it may be when you pass by the ruins of Grace Dieu Priory whether it be in snow or sunshine it always makes you ask the question “I wonder what the history is? Who lived there? How did they live and what was it really like all those years ago?”
Thanks to the Grace Dieu Priory Trust some of these questions are being answered and the ruins conserved for the future. This will enable other generations to visit and enjoy them in a way that nobody has been able to do for many centuries.
Back in 1996 a group of concerned and interested people got together to form a group to save the ruins.
They recognised the importance of the site and the need to do something about it. This group was eventually formalised in 1998 and became The Grace Dieu Priory Trust. It comprises representatives from North West Leicestershire District Council, Leicestershire County Council, Belton Parish Council, members of other local bodies such as the Whitwick and Thringstone Archaeological group and individuals who are interested in saving the ruins.
The first objective was to find an architect with experience in this type of structure and then to get some idea of the magnitude of the costs to carry out conservation works to a sufficient standard to enable the ruins to be opened up to the public. However none of this could be done until a formal lease was obtained from the owners of the site, the Rosminian Order, who have now granted a ninety-nine year lease of the site to the Trust. Plans and work have now been set in motion.
One of the first objectives was to raise funding for the project. English Heritage who were already involved in the historical side of the project also had a role to play in the fund raising as they are the advisers to the Heritage Lottery Fund from whom it was hoped much of the funding would come.
The estimates for the complete project were in the region of half a million pounds sterling and a great deal of hard work was involved in obtaining the necessary commitments to reach this figure. Eventually it was achieved with monies being donated from many sources the main ones being the Heritage Lottery Fund, WREN, English Heritage, Belton Parish Council and many other smaller bodies.
In 2003 the first trial contracts were let. These were to establish the materials and methods that would be used on the main conservation work. From the trial work it was then possible to write a formal specification and draw up a contract, this was done and the work went out to tender.
A contractor was selected and the contract placed and by the autumn of 2005 the main conservation work was completed.
In parallel to the conservation other things were happening on the archaeology side. Complete records were being made of all facets of the ruins both above ground and below. A nature trail leaflet has been produced, a guidebook has been produced and education packs are available for schools. Ultimately in early 2006 the footpaths around the ruins will be laid and the formal link to Sustrans trail through Grace Dieu Woods opened.
In 2005 the Trustees agreed to the formation of the “Friends of Grace Dieu Priory Trust” this is a group of dedicated people who are interested in making sure that the ruins do not again go into decline and will be overseeing the ruins on a day-to-day basis. New members are also welcome to join. (Details are available in the contacts section)
Visitors to the Priory can park on the Bull's Head car park with kind permission of the management.