New St Albans Cathedral Welcome Centre Building, Hertfordshire Architecture News
St Albans Cathedral Welcome Centre, UK
Development in Herts, southeast England, UK, design by Simpson and Brown Architects
11 October 2019
St Albans Cathedral Welcome Centre Building
Design: Simpson and Brown Architects
Original architects: George Gilbert Scott, Edmund Beckett, 1st Baron Grimthorpe, John Oldrid Scott, Lewis Nockalls Cottingham
Thomas Sinden completes new Welcome Centre at St Albans Cathedral as part of £7 million National Lottery project
Thomas Sinden has completed a new single storey Welcome Centre, connecting the Norman cathedral with the 20th century Chapter House and renovations to the twentieth century Chapter House.
Photos © Giles Rocholl Photography
Set within the archaeologically sensitive ‘Monk’s Graveyard’ site in Sumpter Yard, the Welcome Centre, designed by leading conservation architects Simpson and Brown, provides a brand new visitor experience with new visitor entrance, retail space, interpretation and exhibition areas, the relocated vestry, and provide new level access.
Alterations to the Chapter House interiors were also undertaken to renovate the existing café, provide additional education spaces, and improve accessibility at all levels through the creation of new lift access and washroom facilities.
The £7 million plus project has been funded by around £4.2 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and over £3 million raised by the Cathedral through more than 1,000 donors.
Work on the oldest site of continuous Christian worship began in May 2017, when archaeologists from the Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT) performed a dig to explore the foundations of what is now the new Welcome Centre. Between 1750 and 1852, this area was known to have been used as a parish graveyard and the team from CAT found a very concentrated burial site. In amongst this former graveyard at St Albans Cathedral, the archaeologists made a unique and remarkable discovery of the remains of Abbot John of Wheathampstead and three papal bulls, issued by Pope Martin V dating to the 15th century.
The Very Reverend Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans said, “We now have a marvellously elegant, light and spacious new welcome centre, an enticing new exhibition centre and interpretation scheme, vastly improved spaces and facilities for children’s and adult learning, and a beautifully refurbished cafe and crypt.
We look forward to welcoming many more visitors to the Cathedral, and to raising awareness of St Alban and his story nationally and internationally. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of all those who made this project possible, and to those whose skill and labour designed and built it.”
Graeme Sinden, Director of Thomas Sinden comments, “It has been an honour for Thomas Sinden to be part of such an historic and significant project. We have extensive experience working on heritage projects and throughout the build our team worked closely with the archaeologists and team at the cathedral to ensure everything was protected and preserved, whilst we sympathetically connected the main Grade I listed Cathedral to the 1980s Chapter House building.
The work on St Albans Cathedral has been a flagship project for our company and we look forward to seeing visitors of all ages enjoy the new Welcome Centre for many years to come.”
Andy Davey of Simpson & Brown Architects said, “It has been both a pleasure and a challenge working on the new St Albans Cathedral Welcome Centre. Designing a new building to slot into the constricted space between the grandiose mass of the historic cathedral and Sir William Whitfield’s modern and highly respected Chapter House has been a demanding task, and one which has called for balancing many different requirements and opinions.
Although the finished building is deliberately intended to be respectfully understated – taking its design lead from the historic boundary wall that once enclosed the Monks’ Graveyard on the site – our overall aim has been that it should also engender an uplifting and exciting sense of arrival for visitors to the Cathedral, so that their appreciation of this very special place will be greatly enhanced, and passed on to others in the future.”
The new building is part of a major redevelopment programme which will boost awareness of the historic church’s 1,700-year history. The Cathedral was built on the burial site of Alban – Britain’s first Christian martyr. The ancient structure is thought to be Britain’s first Christian shrine and the country’s longest serving centre of Christian worship.
The project has also created a new exhibition focussing on the unique history of the church which currently receives over 200,000 visitors a year. The main Cathedral and Deanery buildings remained open to staff and the public throughout the duration of works.
Thomas Sinden was established in 1991 by founding partners Des Thomas and Graeme Sinden and has earned the reputation for delivering award-winning new build and refurbishment projects throughout London and the Southeast. The company works with both public and private companies, ranging from government departments, local authorities, housing associations, schools, colleges and charitable trusts.
For further information please visit www.thomas-sinden.co.uk
St Albans Cathedral
The Cathedral’s architecture is a blend of many different periods, with Anglo-Saxon features dating back to King Offa’s church, founded on the site in 793. Work started on the current church building in 1077; it was the largest building in the country at the time. Its great Norman tower and nave were built using Roman bricks salvaged from the ruins of Verulamium.
The Benedictine monastery was dissolved in 1539 and the Abbey church was bought by the townspeople to become the parish church, which it remains today. The Victorians undertook a major restoration and it became a cathedral in 1877.
This significant development project is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund with match funding from over a thousand individuals and organisations.
Photos © Giles Rocholl Photography for Simpson & Brown Architects
St Albans Cathedral Welcome Centre Building in Hertfordshire images / information from Thomas Sinden / Simpson & Brown Architects
Location: St Albans, AL1 1BY, Hertfordshire, England, UK
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Website: St Albans Hertfordshire