St Albans Cathedral nearly ready to open new Welcome Centre in 2019

PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 December 2018

Very Reverend Dr Jeffrey John laying bricks for the new Vestry. Picture: Submitted by St Albans Cathedral

Very Reverend Dr Jeffrey John laying bricks for the new Vestry. Picture: Submitted by St Albans Cathedral

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A transformational new visitors' centre will open at one of St Albans' most iconic tourist attractions this upcoming year.

New exhibition space in St Albans Cathedral. Picture: PaullNew exhibition space in St Albans Cathedral. Picture: Paull

St Albans Cathedral’s new Welcome Centre is part of a £7million project called Alban, Britain’s First Saint - which also includes a schedule of events, new facilities, improved access, and an Interpretation Scheme to offer a more engaging visitor experience.

Interactive screens, insight into hidden alcoves of the historic building, a downloadable app, and films are all included in the Interpretation Scheme, along with a projector reilluminating medieval paintings in their original colours.

This illumination is the first technical innovation of its kind in an English cathedral and means visitors can view the paintings as pilgrims would have experienced them centuries ago.

The Cathedral’s Chapter House is also being renovated to provide specially adapted library and classroom spaces.

The new Welcome Centre for the south east. Picture: Submitted by St Albans CathedralThe new Welcome Centre for the south east. Picture: Submitted by St Albans Cathedral

Alban, Britain’s First Saint was granted £3.9million by the Heritage Lottery Fund to raise the city’s profile alongside the new St Albans Museum + Gallery.

To celebrate the project launch, the Cathedral is hosting an Alban Festival running from June 21 to 30.

The Roman themed events programme will add to the already established Albantide Pilgrimage on June 22.

There will be additional amusements in the Abbey Orchard that afternoon and a St Albans district council (SADC) Street Festival on June 23.

Dean of St Albans Cathedral, the Very Reverend Dr Jeffrey John, said: “Progress on the building of the new Welcome Centre is striking.

“The walls are rising fast and it will be fascinating to watch in the coming months. Meanwhile, behind the scenes the huge amount of research and collaboration which will bring our heritage to life is moving to the production stage. The text of our new interpretation panels, after months and months of work, is nearing final form.”

Last November Dr John joined the Welcome Centre building team, from construction contractors Thomas Sinden, for an afternoon.

After a quick masterclass in bricklaying, Dr John’s construction efforts have now become part of the new Vestry.

He continued: “It will be bright and welcoming, with views through the ceiling up to the tower and from the Slype onto the orchard, with a newly refurbished shop and café and new information screens to guide visitors around the building.”

St Albans Cathedral attracts tourists year round because it is a landmark with a colourful history - a monastery was originally founded on the site by King Offa of Mercia in 793.

The first Norman abbot, Paul of Caen, starting rebuilding the Abbey church in the Norman style using bricks and tiles from the ruined Roman town of Verulamium in 1077.

It was completed in 1115 under Abbot Richard d’Albini. The Cathedral has the longest Nave in England.

St Albans Museum + Gallery opened in June this year on the site of the former Town Hall, after also receiving a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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