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Abbey development plan update

Wednesday, 4th August 2010

Abbey development plan update

The Dean and Chapter wish to provide an update on the progress of the Abbey’s development plans under the 2020 Vision, following its statement in June and December, 2009.

Work on the conversion of 1 Dean’s Yard was completed earlier this year, thanks to funding provided by a private benefactor.  An Education Centre has been established, which was formally opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 21 May. The Centre, which caters for schoolchildren from the ages of 5 to 18, is now fully operational, and is taking bookings for the autumn term. For details of its services, please visit the school section of the website. Staff rest facilities have also been moved to 1 Dean’s Yard, together with a number of key Abbey offices.

After a considerable amount of preliminary and exploratory work, and the publication of important research into the architectural history, it has been decided with much regret that it will not be possible to continue the project to complete the roof over the crossing lantern at this stage. The Dean and Chapter was very encouraged by the generous offer of funding by a charitable foundation to look carefully into the practicalities of this exciting project. We have done so with much enthusiasm. But after detailed consideration the Dean and Chapter has concluded that we cannot take this very considerable commitment further. We are confident, however, that the useful preparatory work which has been done on this scheme will not be wasted for the future. The aim of completing a project of which the history goes back, among others, to Henry III, Wren and Hawksmoor, remains as an ambition.

Work on the Cellarium Café and the bringing into use of the Triforium continues. The Cellarium Café will enable us to provide, for the first time, good quality simple refreshments at a modest price to visitors to the Abbey in a beautiful and previously unvisited space in the heart of the Abbey’s mediaeval monastery. This will help take forward in a practical way our firm commitment to the Benedictine tradition of hospitality.

The opening up of the Triforium, an important and unseen part of Henry III’s thirteenth century Abbey at a striking height above the Nave, will provide magnificent views to our visitors both within and outside the Abbey, and enable us to display many more of the Abbey’s treasures of plate, vestments, glass, manuscripts and muniments than we have space for at present. This will enhance very considerably the visitors’ understanding of the meaning and history of the Abbey.

We have had to extend the likely timetable for the completion of both these major projects under the 2020 Vision because of the need to identify new sources of outside funding for them. But once again, much preliminary work on them has already been completed, co-ordinated by Malcolm Reading of Malcolm Reading Consultants, who was appointed in November 2009 as Project Manager for the whole range of the Abbey’s development work under the 2020 Vision. We hope to complete work on the Cellarium Café by early 2012. The opening up of the Triforium is a more complex and costly project, and can only move forward as we are able to raise funds for it.  But our enthusiasm to complete both these important developments is undiminished.

Funding for these exciting projects is, therefore, our most urgent concern. We are on our way to raising the £3m needed to complete the Cellarium Café. We need to secure funding of £12m to cover the cost of opening up the Triforium to the public and laying it out as a gallery. These works will transform the experience of the visitor to the Abbey and we are confident that we shall be able to raise the funds we need for them.  We are not at this stage launching a formal fund-raising campaign: that will come later as this important work continues.

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