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Chicksands Priory Staircase


Chicksands Priory, Bedfordshire

Chicksands is first recorded in the Doomsday book, in 1086. The Priory was founded later, 1147-53, following the gift, by Payne de Beauchamp of Bedford Castle, of the manor to the monastic Gilbertine Order.

The Priory played its part during the Second World War as RAF Chicksands. Between 1950 and 1995 it was home to the United States Air Force (USAF). Following its handover back to the Ministry of Defence Chicksands Priory underwent a huge refurbishment project, 1997-98.

Having worked with the USAF for a number of years MBL was already familiar with the base at Chicksands.
Although previously engaged to maintain, repair or replace existing high security locks and associated ironmongery MBL was now required to move away from the modern and concentrate on the restoration of the 12th century Priory as its new role as Intelligence Corps Officer’s Mess.

MBL supplied the full range of architectural ironmongery from brass parliament hinges and reproduction horizontal lock cases to door closers and carpet stair rods.

Possibly the most substantial and impressive part of the project was the restoration of the main stairs brass banister. Brass uprights, including barley twist post, support the timber handrail. The original banister supports were so thick with the decades of accumulated dirt that initial identification of the material of the uprights was uncertain. MBL was employed to strip back the uprights and barley post to reveal the original brass. Finished in polished brass and lacquered to preserve the work carried out in situ, the stairway is now a feature often remarked upon by visitors to the Priory. The stair rods with their specially chosen finials also manufactured by MBL has further enhanced the staircases attraction.

However, the most unusual item of the project is reserved for the bar catch in the vaulted cellar. As seen in most public houses part of the bar counter can be held vertically to allow access by staff to the bar area. Due to the vaulted ceiling and position of the counter a bar catch was required to be specifically designed and manufactured by MBL. Measuring over a meter in length and made from solid brass this unique bar catch it an eye catching addition to the Priory.

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