The Present House
The present house at Conishead is a magnificent Grade II* listed example of early Victorian Gothic architecture. The house is dominated by two octagonal towers, 100 feet high.
Between them is a fine traceried window depicting the principal benefactors of the original Priory - Edward 11, William de Lancaster and his wife Gundrid, Duchess of Warwick, together with St. Augustine, the founder of the religious order. In the West wall, stained glass windows by Willemont depict eighteen scenes from the life of Christ.
Below is the vast cloistered corridor which is one hundred and seventy seven feet long and in pure Gothic style.
Across the corridor is the dining room containing one of the finest ceilings in the house. The walls are panelled with oak wainscotting of a linenfold design. Above the black marble fireplace the huge picture frame once housed a painting by one of the great masters.
Adjoining the dining room is the saloon (now the Priory shop) which was the only room to escape the ravages of dry rot. Its ornate plaster ceiling bears the arms of the Braddyll family, and the fire place is carved from Carrera marble. The Conservatory Café, due to re-open in 2005, overlooks the southern lawn which covers the foundations of the Priory church.
Rising from the main corridor is the double cantilevered staircase, its great balustrade surmounted at either end by a badger - the emblem of the Braddylls. The staircase is lit by a north window which contains the arms of the Braddylls and the many families with whom they were linked. Made by Wailes it is a fine example of early nineteenth century stained glass, rich in colour.
At the top of the stairs is a gallery from which open several other principal rooms. The gallery affords a dramatic view of the main hall through a 17th century oak screen.
Off the first floor landing is the Oak Room which is lined with richly carved oak Elizabethan panelling. This was brought by Colonel Braddyll from Salmesbury Hall near Preston to be installed in his new Victorian mansion. Some of the panels are plaster reproductions where there were insufficient original panels to go round. The carvings depict robust male and female figures and a variety of weapons. Above the fireplace three slender termini caryatids representing Faith, Hope and Charity support the oldest panel which is dated 1624. The nineteenth century cast iron fireplace is surrounded by hand polished stone, embedded with fossils.
In 1972-6 Damp & Dry Rot: During the time Conishead Priory lay empty, the gutters became blocked and rainwater overflowed into the house. The ensuing damp allowed the growth of dry rot fungus which spread rapidly throughout the building, laying waste to much of the woodwork and reducing many of the structural timbers to powder. By 1976, many parts of the building were close to collapse.
In 1976 the house and grounds were bought by Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre for £75,000. However, the full extent of the damage was not realized. The first priority was to save this unique building from collapse by propping the structural beams with trees from the woods. Then an extensive examination was carried out to determine the extent of the dry rot fungus before starting to eradicate it.
Many of the structural beams were replaced. Tons of wood, bricks and plaster were ripped away leaving few of the eighty rooms untouched.
Once the fungus had been exposed, fungicide was injected into the walls and the remaining timbers chemically treated to prevent recurrence.