By Emma Brennan
Friday, November 16, 2012
A DILAPIDATED 14th-Century building has been restored to its former glory by a local history buff.
The former Stockwell Arms pub in Colchester, which dates back to 1350, had been empty for a year and had even become occupied by squatters.
But saddened at seeing the former merchant’s home fall into a state of disrepair, businessman Robert Morgan, who lives in Little Cornard near Sudbury, embarked on a three-year labour of love to save the building.
Mr Morgan is an avid collector of historic artefacts, but he admits his latest acquisition – which he has spent £1million renovating – is the most expensive.
He said the time and money had been well spent on preserving the ancient building for future generations, adding: “I have watched this poor old relic of the past go to rack and ruin, and having been inside it, I realised it was a hidden gem. So, mad though it might seem, I decided I really wanted to buy it and restore it.
“At times, progress was painstakingly slow as we battled to bring this wonderful old building back to life, because the extent of the rot throughout was much worse than expected. But everyone including the local council and organisations like English Heritage have been thoroughly supportive.”
During the restoration process, Mr Morgan was thrilled with several significant finds at the site, including a Roman road which has now changed the definitive map of Colchester.
A medieval well was also uncovered for the first time in more than 350 years, and a key ring dating back to the 1st Century was Mr Morgan’s favourite discovery.
In the building itself, hidden inglenook fireplaces, a 14th-Century archway and a rare dragon’s tail ceiling were also uncovered and have now been preserved.
A section of wall showing “wattle and daub” construction techniques will become a feature of the building when it re-opens on November 30 as a tradtional British family restaurant with an “ale hall”. Mr Morgan said the aim was to put many of the artefacts on show throughout the building.
Local historian Richard Shackle, of Earls Colne, said he was impressed with the restoration, adding: “The building has three crown post roofs and lots of other interesting features. If Robert Morgan hadn’t stepped in when he did, it would very likely be a pile of rubble by now.”