Old Duchy Palace: Historic Cornish Site Given A New Lease of Life
The £1 million regeneration of 700-year-old building creates community and enterprise space to boost local jobs and businesses.
In the Cornish town where poet Sir John Betjeman once said, ‘there history in every stone', a 700-year-old, Grade 1 listed building – one of the top 2 percent of the most important buildings in the UK – has been fully restored and sustainably modernised.
Old Duchy Palace, in Lostwithiel, was built by Edmund Earl of Cornwall in 1292. In 1337, when the Black Prince became the Duke of Cornwall, he made the Palace his administrative centre, where the Courts, Treasury, Maritime offices and the tin industry were run from. The building, made from local stone, once reached along the quay much further than today, but it was badly damaged during the Siege of Lostwithiel in 1644. The remaining Convocation Hall at the corner of Quay Street became a Freemasons' temple from 1878, when the last upgrade was carried out, to 2008.
When The Prince's Foundation bought Old Duchy Palace in 2009, it was seriously derelict and on the Buildings at Risk Register. But with the help of the Cornwall Buildings Preservation Trust (CBPT) who now manage the property, and funding from the European Regional Growth Fund, Duchy Palace’s unique heritage has been saved and developed into a business and retail space to benefit the local community and economy for generations to come.
Extensive building work, reaching £1 million, included re-roofing, masonry repairs and substantial alterations to incorporate WCs, kitchen facilities and modern IT. Craftsmanship training was key to the project, with practical lime workshop days for local people, and placements for The Prince's Foundation craft apprentices. One of these apprentices assisted a highly-skilled local craftsman in carving the oak feathers, which top the re-slated roof. Original features, including a 13th century, rose window surround, have been preserved or renewed using a combination of traditional materials and practices. Many captivating remains of the earlier masonic use of the building have been carefully retained as features, including an all-seeing eye wall painting.
The project was completed in July 2013 and opened by the TRHs The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. It has achieved a BREEAM (the environmental assessment and rating system) ‘Very Good’ rating for its energy efficiency, an amazing achievement for a mediaeval building with very limited insulation opportunities. The project has also been awarded a commendation in the Cornwall Buildings Group’s annual awards in 2013.
Find out more about Old Duchy Palace
When The Prince's Foundation was involved in this project, it was known as The Prince's Regeneration Trust