Wymondham Abbey celebrates �168,100 Lottery grant

Wymondham Abbey has been awarded almost �170,000 in the first stage of a multi-million pound project to open up new areas of the medieval building and bring its rich history to life.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has given �168,100 to allow Abbey officials to progress with their plans in time for a second round of grant bids in December next year.

In all, the Abbey hopes to receive about �1.7m from the HLF as well as input �1m of its own funds into the project, which is hoped will be complete by 2015.

The aim is to increase the 900-year-old Abbey's reputation as a major tourist and historic landmark providing a boost to Wymondham's economy and identity as the town prepares for a period of substantial growth.

Canon Christopher Davies, the Vicar of Wymondham Abbey, said: 'We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. This thrilling news greatly encourages us and means we are a step closer in meeting our vision that the Abbey is more welcoming and accessible to everyone and that its place in the life of the community is strengthened.'

The money will be used to bring the Abbey's ruined St Margaret's Chapel back into use and construct an extension on the building's south side. Together the new builds would create an exhibition space, reading room, toilets, kitchen, priests' room and choir vestry which would lead to the removal of a temporary vestry currently taking up space in the south aisle and hiding a number of monuments.

The additional room would allow for the Abbey's archive to go on display which contains documents spanning 700 years and a 1613 King James Bible.

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Plans also include the construction of a bridge linking the churchyard with the ruins in the Abbey Meadow which would open up a 15-acre area of natural beauty presently inaccessible to visitors.

A programme of educational events is proposed, while money would also be pledged to train new volunteers in specialist skills relating to the care of the Abbey's collections.

Robyn Llewellyn, head of HLF East of England, said: 'This project has the potential to totally rejuvenate the much-loved Abbey and share its story with more people than ever, opening it up to new audiences and helping to maintain its important place at the heart of the community.'

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