Worcester Cathedral has received initial support for a £1.2m National Lottery grant to conserve and bring into public use for the first time the 12thcentury Undercroft to College Hall.

Thanks to National Lottery players, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded development funding of £168,000 to the Cathedral for it to progress its vision to create a unique historic venue to facilitate learning, arts and heritage for the whole community and to install a lift to provide access for all. Upon successful completion of the development phase, the Cathedral will then apply for the Stage Two grant of just over £1m to deliver the project over a three year period with a view to opening the new centre in 2020.

Also included in the National Lottery funded project is the conservation of the over-life size carving of ‘Christ in Majesty’ in College Hall, which is believed to be the source of inspiration for Graham Sutherland’s tapestry in Coventry Cathedral. This project will help the Cathedral to better understand, interpret and conserve this internationally significant 13th century monument.

A Centre for Learning, Heritage and Arts for the Whole Community

The project will convert and secure the medieval Undercroft for a sustainable use and provide essential spaces and facilities to support the growing education programme at the Cathedral. Worcester Cathedral began its organised education work over two decades ago without any facilities. A number of years ago a temporary facility was provided. It was a huge improvement, but it only accommodates one classroom and has little storage and no dedicated toilet facilities. The facility is now in poor condition and no longer fit for purpose.

 In 2016, the Cathedral won a Sandford Award for Heritage Education – a kitemark of excellence in learning and education. The proposed plans for the Undercroft will create two teaching rooms, visitor storage space, a reception area, administration space and toilet facilities. The conversion of the Cathedral’s medieval undercroft into a new education centre will provide an innovative and versatile venue for whole community learning for both Worcestershire and the surrounding region. It will continue the strong commitment to learning that forms an integral part of the Cathedral’s Benedictine heritage while facilitating engagement with a much wider range of socio-economic groups and non-traditional constituencies than has hitherto been possible.

Prior to submitting the bid, the Cathedral consulted widely and the proposals have received strong support from the City Council, Local Enterprise Partnership, Chamber of Commerce, schools, colleges and the University, community groups, the business community and local individuals. The new Centre for Learning, Heritage and Arts supports local, regional and national priorities for tourism, heritage and education.

The Very Reverend Dr Peter Atkinson, Dean of Worcester Cathedral says:

We are delighted to receive this initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and send our warmest thanks to National Lottery players and everyone else involved. This grant will enable the Cathedral to develop our plans to bring into public use for the first time a wonderful 12th century former monastic cellar, and provide a unique historic venue to make learning, arts and heritage accessible for the whole community. The project would also conserve the 13th century ‘Christ in Majesty’ carving in College Hall, whose history is not fully understood.”

 Vanessa Harbar, Head of HLF West Midlands, said:

“We’re thrilled to support Worcester Cathedral to develop their plans to transform the medieval undercroft into an exciting new education centre and make it accessible to the public for the very first time. Our thanks go to the National Lottery players who have made our investment possible and we’re looking forward to seeing the project progress.”

 The £500,000 Challenge

During the development phase, the Cathedral will progress its consultations with the community, particularly with audiences who don’t currently engage with the Cathedral to develop new and inspiring activities. They will review access to the Undercroft to ensure that is it available to a wide audience.

The development phase also includes securing £500,000 in matched funding. If successful, the Stage Two National Lottery grant will be for just over £1 million. This means that every donation made to this project will be trebled in value by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Cathedral warmly invites support from charitable trusts, local businesses and individuals. For more information, contact the Development Office on: 01905 732912 or by emailing: [email protected]

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