Preserving History: York Firms Collaborate on Bar Convent’s Conservation Project

York’s Bar Convent is undertaking a major conservation project in conjunction with local contractors that will involve the careful restoration or renewal of many of the building’s original features, helping to ensure the historic property is preserved for future generations to celebrate and enjoy.

Famed for being Britain’s oldest living convent and the country’s second ever school for girls, the Bar Convent is one of the city’s best known buildings, located on the corner of Nunnery Lane and Blossom Street near Micklegate Bar. Formally known as the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, it houses an 18th century chapel, which features the relic of St. Margaret Clitherow, a modern exhibition, an award-winning 22-bedroom guest house, café, gift shop, garden and three meeting rooms.

It has a rich and diverse history having been founded in 1686 by the Congregation of Jesus, whose foundress is Mary Ward, at a time when education for girls was rare and it was illegal to be Catholic. Despite this prohibition, a group of brave religious sisters, now known as the Congregation of Jesus, opened this secret convent and their legacy lives on today with the Bar Convent being central to the global order, and more than 200 schools worldwide bear Mary Ward’s name.

The restoration and refurbishment project will involve the repair and redecoration of more than 280 windows, the re-roofing of 19-21 Blossom Street by using Welsh slate and improving the thermal insulation, and a host of minor repairs to the building’s brickwork and stonework. The historical significance of the Bar Convent is reflected in parts of the building being Grade I listed, and others Grade II, which means all the building work must be conducted within strict guidelines.

The Bar Convent wanted to ensure local companies had the opportunity to get involved in the project to ensure they could contribute to the longevity of the prominent building. York-based CG Building & Restoration Ltd have been tasked with completing the sensitive conservation work, working closely with local project managers Gate & Bar.

(L-R) Nathan Hughes, Director of Gate & Bar with Vernon Carter, Managing Director of CG Building & Restoration Ltd, and James Foster, Chief Operations Officer at the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, as work starts on a major new conservation project at York’s iconic Bar Convent

James Foster, Chief Operations Officer at the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre said: “We work continuously to keep the buildings in good condition but given their age, every few years it is inevitable that more substantial conservation work needs to be undertaken. This latest project is our first major programme since 2015, giving us the chance to renew some significant exterior features of the building with the help of local construction professionals who know the city and the Bar Convent’s heritage extremely well.”

Vernon Carter, Managing Director of CG Building & Restoration Ltd added: “We are thrilled to have been given the opportunity to work on such a high-profile historic building in York. The work required suits our expertise perfectly, and we look forward to making our contribution to the long term future of a building that is not only locally significant, but internationally.”

As the main contractor, CG Building & Restoration is organising all the logistical, access and safety measures needed for the building team to complete their work, including scaffolding which spans the whole external wall of the Bar Convent facing onto Blossom Street. They will also install a temporary roof structure for the re-roofing works to ensure disruption to residents, hotel guests, visitors and other stakeholders is minimised during the work.

Whilst the erection of the scaffolding has enabled the repair and renovation work to begin in earnest, project managers Gate & Bar have actually been working with the Bar Convent for the past 12 months. They have been involved in assessing the conservation requirements in detail, conducting extensive surveys of the building, including through the use of a drone, and advising on an appropriate scope of works.

Nathan Hughes, Director of Gate & Bar said “This project comes with a great level of responsibility to safeguard the future of the building. Our team are now familiar faces at the Bar Convent given the significant time spent there to understand the complexities of both the conservation and current use of the site. We are delighted to have appointed CG Building & Restoration as main contractor to work with ourselves and the client to work towards such a meaningful goal.”

CG Building & Restoration, based at Cliftongate Business Park on Wigginton Road, work on a wide variety of schemes, but they have a particular specialism in projects where the building is either listed or architecturally sensitive. Its team is skilled in the use of traditional building methods, which are important in helping to preserve original features of heritage buildings like the Bar Convent, as well as the latest building techniques and materials.

Work on the latest conservation project at the Bar Convent is due for completion in approximately six months.

For more information on the Bar Convent visit

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