March 7 2014 Latest news:
Monday, January 27, 2014
Ambitious plans to bring Wymondham Abbey into the 21st century were presented to people in the town.
More than 100 people attended a presentation at the abbey on Saturday where they found out more and had their say about the plans.
The Abbey Experience - funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £1.75 million along with over £1 million from charitable trusts and the abbey’s own fundraising efforts - is expected to open next summer.
The vicar of Wymondham Abbey, Canon Christopher Davies, said: “This is an opportunity for the abbey - sometimes described as the jewel in the heritage crown of Wymondham - to play its full part in the life of our wonderful town.”
“We chose not to include a refectory because we want our visitors to explore the town itself. There will be a shop selling specialist religious resources which are not available elsewhere in the town.”
Mike Halls, vice chairman of the steering group, said the abbey’s current role as a heritage, cultural, education and spiritual building was constrained due to a lack of facilities.
“The main vision we set out was to maintain, conserve and enhance the abbey,” Mr Halls said.
The Grade I listed building is surrounded by a conservation area which will also be open to pre-booked groups for the first time in decades.
There will also be a focus on the building’s history with archives going on display and spotlights illuminating previously hidden archaeology.
Churchwarden Richard Barton-Wood said: “Part of the scheme includes enhancing our volunteers and training. We want to develop more links with the local community.
Mr Barton-Wood said there would also be an emphasis on marketing with a new website, leaflets and promotional materials.
The abbey, which welcomes 20,000 visitors a year, has also launched an appeal to raise £50,000.
Mr Barton-Wood said: “We hope to have a donor book. People can give something in memory of a loved one and we will have a book with their names in so people can have a personal involvement with the project.”
The Abbey Experience will include:
Two dedicated learning spaces and a choir vestry
An archive display
New kitchen and toilets
A link to Abbey Meadow
The West doors opened up for the first time in decades
The Abbey’s ruined St Margaret’s Chapel would be brought back into use
After the presentation, residents raised concerns about parking and logistics but were assured that provisions would be put in place for visiting groups. Father Christopher also confirmed that no graves would be disturbed.
Planning permission was initially granted in 2002 but the project was shelved two years later due to a lack of funding.
But the building’s 900th birthday in 2007 sparked a revival and the plans were resurrected in 2008.
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said: “Wymondham Abbey is a major landmark, visitor attraction and symbol of this area’s ancient and distinguished history. It is also a vibrant home to a host of active music, arts, and community activities. With imagination our churches can and should be centres of community life again, and I look forward to doing all I can to support the sensitive plans for improving the facilities of our great abbey.”
*What do you think of the ideas for the abbey? Send your views to EDPLetters@archant.co.uk.