New state of the art visitor centre is a step closer for Lincoln Cathedral
Since ground was broken back in October 2018 by building contractor William Birch & Sons, the Cathedral and the surrounding close have seen considerable conservation and renovation works taking place.
The aim of the Connected project is to improve the Cathedral’s setting and visitor experience – offering more accessible, engaging and peaceful spaces, for a greater number of worshippers and visitors to enjoy.
The construction phase has seen the major refurbishment and extension of the Old Deanery – on the north side of the Cathedral – to create a new state of the art visitor centre.
Dr Anne Irving, Lincoln Cathedral Connected programme manager, said: “Connected is a significant and important milestone in the Cathedral’s history and it’s wonderful to have reached the end of the construction works, which William Birch have delivered for us to the highest standard.
“The greatest compliment I’ve heard about the new centre and associated green is that it looks like it has always been there. The architects and designers have done a fantastic job of creating something that blends with the architecture and character of the Cathedral and the Close. The sympathetic use of materials and the quality of the workmanship speak for themselves.
“I’m incredibly proud of what the Cathedral, the Design Team and William Birch have achieved at the Old Deanery. Working on a building of this age has been both challenging and rewarding. It’s been a privilege to work with a skilled group of professionals who have created such special spaces next to our majestic Cathedral.”
The new facilities include a welcoming reception area, shop, café with inside and outside seating, toilets including a changing places room, community rooms, exhibition and learning spaces.
The Dean’s Green has been landscaped to create a peaceful outdoor space, and for the first time in decades, will be open to the public.
This phase of works has also seen much-needed conservation work to Eastgate Wall, Exchequergate Arch, the Cathedral’s Romanesque Frieze, Cloister Wall and Parvis (the paved area around the main west entrance to the Cathedral).
Conservation works to the West Front have also been underway at the same time, led by the Cathedral’s own skilled craftsmen and women.
The project now moves into the internal fit-out phase, which will get the new visitor centre ready for when it officially opens its doors in Spring 2021.
Within its new exhibition space, the visitor centre will display never seen before artefacts and treasures, which help share the history of the Cathedral and Lincoln, and will also accommodate a varied program of education and interpretation activities for schools, as well as family-friendly events.
The Connected project was made possible by £12.4m raised by National Lottery players awarded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
It costs £1.6m a year to maintain the Cathedral and it is expected that with the new spaces and planned educational events program, it will result in an extra 125,000 visitors each year – helping to not only protect the Cathedral’s future, but also boost the local economy.
Chris Birch, chairman of William Birch & Sons Ltd, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to work in true collaboration with the project team in this next phase of the Cathedral’s journey.
“The project has been particularly diverse in its nature and we have drawn upon our team’s expertise in restoration, conservation, landscaping as well as delivering exciting contemporary facilities, all perfectly unified with the Cathedral backdrop.
“The whole project team should be very proud of the new facilities which will attract growing numbers of visitors for many years to come; continuing the Cathedral’s importance as an internationally renowned place of worship and visitor attraction.”
The Rev Canon John Patrick, Subdean of Lincoln, said: “Lincoln Cathedral has always been a place of worship, hospitality and welcome, and the Old Deanery visitor centre is going to allow us to build upon that reputation, and to be accessible to more people than ever.
“This new resource will help us share the stories of faith, the building and the people that have been, and continue to be at the heart of our daily life. It also gives us the opportunity to build on that history by working with many diverse groups of people from across the city, the county and the country, to create something special for future generations of people in Lincoln and beyond.
“It’s wonderful to see what was once an unloved and somewhat foreboding building brought to life once again by the meticulous work of William Birch and Sons. The whole of the visitor centre and the surrounding gardens are now brilliant, bright and alive once again, and we can’t wait to open our doors to the whole community and welcome everyone in.”
Anne Jenkins, Director, England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “It’s incredibly exciting to see the Connected project at Lincoln Cathedral progressing. Without National Lottery funding the restoration and renovation of this internationally significant building would not be possible.
“We are looking forward to seeing the project progress further and to being able to see the wonderful artefacts on display in the new visitor centre, enabling more and more people to discover the fascinating history of the Cathedral.”