The Former Archbishop's Palace, Southwell

The Former Archbishop's Palace is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I listed building. The construction of the building began in 1360 and was used as a residence for the Archbishops of York. The palace became a ruin after the Civil War in the mid-1640s and has been a ruin ever since.

The Former Archbishop's Palace is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I listed building. The construction of the building began in 1360 and was used as a residence for the Archbishops of York. The palace became a ruin after the Civil War in the mid-1640s and has been a ruin ever since.

The ruin had been the responsibility of the Ministry of works and the wall heads had been stabilized and repaired using cement mortar and in some places reconstruction of the walls carried out with a cement mortar.  In 2013 the Southwell Minster were awarded a substantial Heritage Lottery Grant to carry out improvements and restoration at the palace and Bonsers Restoration were awarded the contract to carry out the essential repairs and restoration to the palace ruins which are adjacent to the minster.

This involved rough racking and soft capping to the wall heads of the ruins. The ruins are mainly constructed out of Blue Lias stone with the stone dressings in Mansfield White sandstone. The quarries that supplied this original stone are no longer working and Blue Lias can only be supplied by a quarry in Somerset. The nearest match to the Mansfield white sandstone is produced by Cadeby Stone quarry at Doncaster. Bonsers Restoration carried out repointing of the face stonework and reconstructions of the wall heads where required.

The existing cement mortar used by the Ministry of works had held the walls together but the very hard cement had been unable to cope with the constant freeze thaw action over the years and large cracks had appeared all over the ruins allowing seeds to penetrate into the building fabric. The growth of vegetation within the walls was a severe problem, especially where the roots had penetrated deep into the walls. This was particularly evident on the two gables on the East elevation. A method called rough raking was used where the wall heads are consolidated ensuring all loose stones and re-fixed in their original positions and there is a clear distinction made between corework and facework.

A lime mortar was used for this work at a ratio of 3 sand:1 lime (NHL3.5) re-pointing of the facework was carried out with the same ratio lime mortar, 3 sand:1lime putty. Once the wall heads were consolidated all horizontal surfaces were capped with turf; soft capping. This soft capping with turf acts like a thermal blanket protecting the wall head from freeze thaw action and also absorbs moisture. Regular maintenance of the capping ensures any new vegetation is removed before it becomes too intrusive and established.

Project The Former Archbishop’s Palace, Southwell

Location Archbishop's Palace, Great Hall Ruins, Southwell, Notts, NG25 0JP

Value £70,000

Duration October 2013 – February 2014


We have restored the former Mill Managers House at Darley Abbey Mills as wedding guest accommodation. We have been delighted with the workmanship, site management and level of dedication shown to complete the project. The internal restoration works have included new lath & plaster ceiling, three coat lime plaster and repair of lime ash floors. Externally the works have included repointing, repair and structural repairs. We will be looking to use Bonsers again on our future projects.

Andrew Rose, Darley Abbey Mills

We have worked successfully together on many high-profile heritage conservation projects including; the restoration of the Grade I listed Mill Building at Cromford World Heritage Site for the Arkwright Society; the restoration of the Bestwood Winding House, A Grade II listed building and scheduled ancient monument for Nottinghamshire County Council; and the restoration of the Grade II listed Buxton pavilion for High Peak Borough Council. Bonsers specialise in a vast array of heritage skills, ranging from stone repairs, lime plaster, ornate plaster repairs and brickwork, joinery and ironmongery restoration.

Les Needham, G F Tomlinson Group Limited

G F Tomlinson have used the specialist services of Bonsers extensively over many years, and regard them as our key heritage conservation and restoration supply chain partner. Their in-depth knowledge and skills on heritage building practices and sensitive approach to the protection of historic building fabric, are second to none.

On all of these schemes, they have delivered a first-class service and a very high standard of workmanship, and we therefore have no hesitation in recommending Bonsers to any prospective client.

Les Needham, G F Tomlinson Group Limited

The second and more challenging project Bonsers worked with us on was the Building 17 project. This was a very problematic project with cutting edge solutions required to the contamination issues within the building. The work was very difficult and the working conditions extremely unpleasant. The Bonsers team acted extremely professionally at all times, the communication between contractor and client was exemplary, they worked to a tight timescale and budget. Additionally their follow up services have been second to none, coming to site to sort out any maintenance issues and also providing support to us in our work engaging with our community about the project.
I would fully recommend their services to others.

Sarah McLeod, CEO, Cromford Mills

The canal side restaurant project was relatively small and straight forward though the timescale was extremely short – opening up the upper floor for extra trading space, introducing a dumb waiter and toilets into the building. However, the Bonsers' team treated the project very seriously, taking great care to liaise with me as the client,   working very considerately alongside my own staff and engaging positively with  the passing public when required to do so. Equally, they completed the job on time and within budget.

Sarah McLeod, CEO, Cromford Mills

As part of the restoration project funded by English Heritage, Bonsers were employed as the main contractor on this project, initially based upon very good references and viewing previous projects. Throughout the whole project working with Bonsers was professional, helpful and with a real emphasis on caring about what was being restored – not just another builder on a building. We would certainly use Bonsers again for any other restoration work at Barlborough Hall.

Malc Lucas, Facilities Manager, Mount St Mary’s College & Barlborough Hall School

Bonsers impressed with their deep technical knowledge, experience and empathy of historic buildings. Their quality, workmanship and professional attitude was impressive throughout.

Michael Shaw BEng CEng MRAeS Bursar, Coventry School Foundation