The church, which welcomes over 20,000 people through its doors each year, is undertaking the Abbey Experience,
an exciting new development that is due to begin this summer. This follows an award from the Heritage Lottery Fund
of £1.75 million along with over £1 million from charitable trusts and the Abbey’s own fundraising efforts.
, Publicity Officer at the Abbey, said: “We are now putting the finishing touches to our plans to make the Abbey a more community-oriented venue. There will be particular emphasis on welcoming more visitors with improved facilities and displays, helping them to fully appreciate what has been described as “the heritage jewel” of our wonderful town.
“We aim to provide a range of new learning opportunities for people of all ages, and open up access to our unique parish archives.”
The congregation of the Abbey had its say back in December. Now invitations have been issued to local people, businesses and organizations to attend a presentation and consultation at the Abbey on Saturday January 25 at 2pm. The event will conclude with tea at 3.30pm
“We would very much like to invite everyone to come and see our ideas and hear how we hope the project will boost tourism and the income of many retail businesses in the town,” said Richard. “We would also welcome input as the final plans are made. Invitations are being sent out to businesses and organisations in the town, but this is an open event for all who are interested. It is a chance to find out more about the plans and where we’re at and have your say.”
The project aims to work with schools, colleges and businesses to welcome more people to the Abbey while developing tourism links and improving signs around the town. A learning and events officer will be employed for three years to work with volunteers and arrange open days and hard-hat tours while the restoration and building works are ongoing.
Two new extensions at the east end – one within a ruined chapel – will create space for visitors, including families and schoolchildren, to learn about the Abbey’s history. The church also houses a unique collection of parish archives, some dating back 700 years. Selected items, such as a 1613 King James Bible
, will be conserved and put on display.
Contractors move on site in July, and we hope the project will be completed and open by July 2015, with a new shop up and running before then.
The church is also preparing a brochure for its Final Fifty
appeal, hoping to raise the minimum £50,000 needed to complete the project.