Plans have been submitted for an exciting development to improve the welcome area for visitors to Canterbury Cathedral.
The plan for a new Welcome Centre (see artistic image right) including a viewing gallery and community space, has been lodged with Canterbury City Council and is part of The Canterbury Journey project, currently the subject of a detailed application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The Welcome Centre proposal, which has been submitted by architects Berman Guedes Stretton on behalf of the Cathedral, would see the development of the existing historic building next to the Cathedral’s Christ Church Gate, with a new build extension at the back. Facing onto the Buttermarket, the Welcome Centre would open up the Cathedral and provide visitors with information about facilities, events and activities as well as give an insight into the Canterbury’s rich history. The (free to visit) first floor viewing gallery would provide views of the Cathedral and Precincts and showcase objects from the Cathedral’s historic collections. The community space would enable the Cathedral to offer a wide range of learning and participation programmes for visitors and the local community and provide space for workshops, performances, presentations and creative interpretation.
Cathedral spokesman, Canon Nick Papadopulos said: “This is a very exciting development. Our present facilities do not allow us to welcome our visitors and our neighbours in the way we would like to. These plans would give everyone who wants it a stunning view of the Cathedral, and allow them to discover something of its history and its contemporary life. In addition, the new centre would have a dedicated space where different types of activities could take place, allowing the Cathedral to reach the widest possible audiences, placing learning and participation at the heart of its mission. It will open the Cathedral to the City – and vice versa – as never before”.
The Cathedral has consulted widely with users and heritage organisations including Historic England and the Canterbury Archaeological Trust. Final plans also need approval from the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England.
The Welcome Centre development is part of a Round Two application to the HLF which also includes a five-year plan around the conservation and restoration of Christ Church Gate, the Nave roof and West Towers, landscaping in the Precincts and the development of innovative ways of interpreting the building and its heritage for visitors.
Approximately half of the cost of The Canterbury Journey has been raised already through the Cathedral Trust. In 2014 the Trust – an independent charity – set out to raise £7.4 million but has far exceeded this target through the generosity of individual benefactors, trusts and foundations and has now been able to contribute £10.3 million to The Canterbury Journey.
The Cathedral was awarded funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2014 for the development of these plans. The final application was submitted in June, and it will be known later in the year whether the HLF grant of more than £10million will be approved.