Funding for St Albans Cathedral facelift

Chapter House

Chapter House - Credit: Archant

Pump-priming money from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has set St Albans Cathedral on course for a major new development project which will boost its appeal as a top visitor attraction.

The project called Alban, Britain’s First Saint, Telling the Whole Story, will reveal the unique place in British history of Alban and the cathedral and tell the whole story of a heritage that spans over 1,700 years.

It will be combined with focussed conservation work, new interpretation, a programme of activities and and the opening of a visitor centre at the Sumpter Yard end of the cathedral.

Funding of £390,000 has been awarded to the cathedral to develop its plans over the next two years and the project should be completed by the end of this decade.

Among the developments will be the restoration of the medieval shrine of Amphibalus, the design and implementation of a new way of telling the Alban story within the cathedral and the laser projection of 12th-Century wall paintings.

The award-winning Education Centre, currently housed in a former boiler room, will be relocated with a revitalised Adult Learning Centre, on to the upper floor of the Chapter House which currently houses the library.

Extending the mezzanine floor and moving some staff elsewhere will free up space and the new visitor centre will be created by “filling in” the empty space at The Slype entrance at the east end of the cathedral.

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The Dean, the Very Rev Jeffrey John, said: “We feel strongly that far too few people realise the importance of St Alban as our first British saint and of St Albans Cathedral as our oldest place of Christian worship.

“The HLF grant will help us put this right. It will enable us to present Alban’s story and the amazingly rich heritage of the cathedral much more effectively. We shall rebuild the shrine of Amphibalus which was destroyed in the Reformation and restore it to its original glory. And we shall have a beautiful new entrance building with better facilities to welcome visitors and pilgrims. We are extremely grateful to HLF and all who have supported this project.”

The project has also received a warm welcome from St Albans council leader Cllr Julian Daly, who commented: “This is great news for the cathedral and for St Albans. The cathedral’s ambition to tell their story acted as a catalyst for wider developments, in particular the Town Hall Museum and Gallery, the Roman Museum at Verulamium Park, the Clock Tower and medieval streets around the Cathedral.

“This funding success shows what can be done when the community works together. Congratulations are due to the Dean, the Cathedral Chapter and to the Heritage Lottery Fund for bringing life to the long term vision.”

In 2012, the cathedral applied for HLF funding for a multi-million pound scheme to extend the Chapter House and improve visitor facilities but it was turned down.

At the time cathedral development officer, Stephanie Pisharody, said that even if it was unsuccessful,the cathedral was committed to continuing with the proposal by other means.

She said this week: “We continued looking at what we wanted to achieve and how to do it.”