Celebrating 40 Years of Service

 Tenants, neighbours and members of the Duchy senior management team paid tribute to Tom Wells and his 40 years of service as the Duchy’s Clerk of Works in Lancashire earlier this month.

Tom, who originally joined the Duchy as an apprentice carpenter and cabinet-maker in 1977 has become one of the best known members of the team over the course of his career. In addition to his expert carpentry skills, he is top of everyone’s speed dial list, serving as an emergency plumber, woodsman, gardener, painter and decorator and even travel companion to numerous tenants across the Lancashire estates.

Married for 40 years, Tom lives on the Whitewell estate in the village of Dunsop Bridge, where his wife Janet is a local primary school teacher. Tom and Janet have four grown-up sons and are joint Presidents of the Hodder Valley Show this year, an event in which they have been actively involved since they moved to Dunsop in 1977. Tom was awarded the Royal Victorian Medal, an honour in the personal gift of the Royal Family, in 2002.

Presenting Tom with an engraved decanter to mark the occasion, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow, said: “We are so grateful to Tom for his years of loyal and dedicated service to the Duchy. His can-do attitude and sunny disposition have made him a real asset to the business and to our tenants across Lancashire who know that they can call on him at any time. He is genuinely one in a million and we hope that he will continue to work with us for many years to come!”

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Yes, Pieminister!

An award-winning pie company is bringing its high quality offering to the Midlands, with the opening of a new Pieminister restaurant at New Oxford House on Waterloo Street in Birmingham.

The Duchy of Lancaster has agreed a long-term lease for 2,048 sq ft of ground floor and basement space to Pieminister from April 2017. 

Pieminister has been making ‘great British pies’ since 2003 and has already opened restaurants and cafés in Cardiff, Leeds, Nottingham, Bristol, Oxford and London. This is the company’s first restaurant in the Midlands and its new premises will be part of New Oxford House where other occupiers include the Michelin-starred Adams Restaurant which opened in 2015.

Offering a variety of pies, sides, cocktails and craft ales, Pieminister puts a contemporary twist on a traditional British favourite.

Commenting on the new lease, the Duchy’s Head of Urban Mike Andrews said: “Pieminister is the perfect complement to Adams Restaurant and firmly establishes New Oxford House as a place for dining. Birmingham’s financial and commercial district has seen a great deal of regeneration and investment in recent years and the addition of successful new companies to the area can only be of long-term benefit to this area of the city. We are very pleased that they have chosen New Oxford House as their first Midlands-based restaurant and wish them continued success in their new home.”

Jon Simon, Pieminister co-founder and MD, added: “New Oxford House is in a great part of the city and we are delighted to be bringing our famous pies to Birmingham. With a new menu and three summer special pies launching in Birmingham, we can’t wait to open our doors and welcome the people of Birmingham. Whether you’re after a quick lunch with friends, a weekend feast with the family, weekend brunch or a cocktail on a night out, we’ve got it covered.”

The new Pieminister restaurant will open its doors in mid-May.

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Lancaster Castle’s Iconic Gatehouse Revealed Once Again

The City’s most iconic landmark has been revealed once again this week, with the removal of scaffolding and hoarding from Lancaster Castle’s John O’Gaunt Gate on Castle Parade. Over the past 12 weeks, the Gatehouse has been carefully screened from view while its stonework, ironmongery, timbers and pointing have been painstakingly repaired by skilled craftsmen to ensure the long-term preservation of its historic fabric.

Now completed, the conservation work has included the installation of a new stone plinth underneath the famous John Of Gaunt statue which stands guardian over the city and its visitors. Work is now proceeding on the adjacent Governor’s House as part of the Duchy of Lancaster’s drive to protect and preserve the Castle buildings by making them water-proof, weather-tight and structurally sound for future generations.

Working with Lancaster City Council, the Duchy has also planted some 40,000 bulbs on Castle Hill, many of which are already in flower. Designed by local landscape architect David Redmore, the planting scheme is designed to provide a constant display of colour along the front and side of the Castle. Formal borders lining the approach route are due for planting later this month.

Commenting on the work completed to date, Duchy Head of Project Management Graeme Chalk said: “We appreciate that the work we have been doing at the Castle has been unseen and we would like to thank the people of Lancaster for their patience and support while the restoration work is ongoing. Working with local Conservation Officers and our heritage team here at the Castle we are making good progress and expect to have finished this first phase by early summer.”

John Of Gaunt is not the only statue at Lancaster Castle to prove popular with Lancastrians. Earlier this year, the ‘Justice’ statue on the Female Penitentiary (C-Wing Panopticon) was selected as one of the items for ‘Lancashire in 70 Objects’, a community project running across the County Palatine to engage local communities in their history and heritage. 

For more information on Lancaster Castle please visit www.lancastercastle.com. For information on A History of Lancashire in 70 Objects, please visit www.museumdevelopmentnorthwest.co.uk

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Bio-Diversity Mapped Across Yorkshire and Lancashire Surveys

The wide-ranging biodiversity audit launched last summer is well underway, with habitats on both the Lancashire and Yorkshire Surveys mapped, identified and quantified.  Carried out in partnership with Natural England and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the aim of the project is to identify, map, encourage, protect and preserve appropriate habitats for wild pollinators and other farm wildlife throughout the year and across all of the Duchy’s agricultural holdings.

The first phase of the project focuses on investigation and documentation to identify and record the quantum, scale and condition of the diverse natural habitats which already exist across the estate. A database of all habitats and features present on the holdings will be created, including detailed reporting on hedgerows, overgrown historic boundary cams, field corners, wild bird mixes, pollen and nectar mixes, scrub, species-rich grassland, field margins, watercourses, ponds, and woodland.

Similar investigative work is now planned across the Cheshire, Staffordshire and Southern Surveys.

Commenting on the results to date, Christopher Sparrow, Head of Rural Estates at the Duchy, said: “As a responsible landowner, the Duchy is supportive of national ecological initiatives and is particularly interested in protecting wild and natural pollinators. We are grateful to our tenants for their support for the initiative and will be sharing the findings in due course to help them understand the habitats present on their farms and how these connect to one another to ensure a sustainable ecological balance across the estates.”

Once all of the relevant data has been compiled and mapped, an action plan detailing any further work required to protect, enhance and preserve these habitats will be drawn up for implementation in 2019/20.

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Duchy Bursary Awarded to Emma Benson

Emma Benson, Duchy of Lancaster scholar

A 20-year old student from Catforth in Lancashire has been awarded a Duchy of Lancaster bursary to support her during her degree studies at Harper Adams College in Shropshire. Emma Benson was presented with the cheque for £2,500 at a presentation ceremony at the College earlier this month.

Emma grew up in Lancashire where her family ran a small agricultural business focused mainly on contracting and fabrication. Her interest in agri-business developed as a direct result of the challenges she sees facing small agricultural businesses and the ways in which tenant farmers can be supported by responsible landowners.

“I’d like to thank the Duchy for supporting me with my studies,” she said. “I have seen first-hand the sort of opportunities that they can make available to their tenant farmers to help them develop profitable businesses. My ambition at the end of my degree is to become an agricultural consultant advising farmers on how to ensure their businesses are as profitable and efficient as possible, whatever challenges they face.”

The Duchy offers bursaries to agricultural students at both Harper Adams and Myerscough Colleges as a means of encouraging the next generation of farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs. Last year, it added a new award for students of traditional construction skills, supporting young people at Moulton College in Northamptonshire training to become skilled craftsmen in disciplines such as stonemasonry and carpentry.

Commenting on Emma’s award, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “Many congratulations to Emma for being chosen from a strong field as the recipient of this year’s award. The Duchy is very keen to encourage enthusiastic young people into agriculture which arguably is a way of life as well as a career. We wish Emma every success with her continued studies and look forward to watching her graduate at the end of the course.”

Founded in the 13th century, the Duchy of Lancaster is a private portfolio of land, property and assets held for the Sovereign in Right of His or Her Duchy of Lancaster. Today the Duchy of Lancaster is custodian of 18,700 hectares across England and Wales, including key urban developments, historic buildings, high quality farmland and areas of great natural beauty.

Under the terms of the Duchy bursary, nominated students receive financial support during both their second and fourth years while in full-time study.

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