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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 13:04 GMT
Restoration boost for oldest shop
The 13th-century building at 173 High Street, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
The building was used as a Victorian pharmacy
A scheme to save the oldest known timber-framed shop in the country has received a major cash boost.

A grant of 250,000 from English Heritage, announced on Wednesday, will be used for repairs to the13th-century building at 173 High Street, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.

The shop was discovered by chance by local builders after they started work on what appeared to be a Victorian property.

The owners, who live locally and wish to remain anonymous, immediately called in specialists from English Heritage and Dacorum Borough Council, who recognised the importance and rarity of the medieval structure.

Tests done by experts at University College, London, showed that the timbers were felled some time between 1277 and 1297.

It gives an extraordinary insight into how Berkhamsted high street would have looked in medieval times
English Heritage chief executive Dr Simon Thurley

Interpretation of the layout of the building points to its use as a shop.

A well at the back of the property is also believed to have been part of a workshop.

English Heritage chief executive Dr Simon Thurley said: "This is an amazing discovery.

"It gives an extraordinary insight into how Berkhamsted high street would have looked in medieval times.

Former Victorian pharmacy

"English Heritage's support, added to considerable financial commitment from the owners, has proved vital in safeguarding the future of this important Grade I Building at Risk."

The building had an attractive Victorian facade and thrived as the town's pharmacy from 1840.

The present owners bought it in spring 2000, when its condition was giving increasing cause for concern.

Work to upgrade the shop into an office and reinstate living accommodation are now due to start.

Specialist carpenters and craftsmen will rework parts of the walls, preserving the timbers and beams as well as retaining and repairing the roof structure.

The recently uncovered historic well will also be incorporated into the design.

The new building is due to open with special public access in the autumn.


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