St Albans Cathedral is proceeding with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its project called, ‘Alban, Britain’s First Saint: Telling the Whole Story’, which will reveal the unique place in British history of Alban and St Albans Cathedral and tell the whole story of a rich heritage, spanning over 1,700 years. Combining focussed conservation work, new interpretation, an inspiring programme of activities, and capital works to create new welcome and learning spaces, the project will attract wider and more diverse audiences. Together with the recent award to the St Albans Museums Trust, this demonstrates a significant vote of confidence from HLF in the undiscovered potential of St Albans as a top visitor destination.
Funding of £390,000 is helping the Cathedral develop its plans in detail over the next two years before applying for a full grant in 2016.
The project will see the restoration of the medieval shrine of Amphibalus, the design and implementation of a new way of telling the Alban story within the Cathedral, potentially including the recreation of a medieval scriptorium, and the laser projection of 12th century wall paintings, plus a programme of activities for visitors and pilgrims of all ages. The Cathedral’s Learning Department, incorporating its award winning Education Centre and revitalised Adult Learning Centre, will relocate to the upper floors of the Chapter House creating fit-for-purpose learning spaces for children and adults. A new welcome centre will provide an intuitive entrance for the Cathedral and improved visitor facilities. The project will create many additional opportunities for volunteers to develop new skills.
St Albans Cathedral sits at the heart of the local community, at the geographical and historical crossover between Roman Verulamium and Medieval St Albans, and between pagan and Christian Britain. Standing on the site of the execution and burial of Alban, Britain’s first Christian martyr, it became the country’s first Christian shrine and pilgrimage destination, 200 years before St Augustine arrived in Canterbury. It is, therefore, the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in the country. Today it enjoys one of the largest regular Sunday congregations of any British Cathedral and welcomes 160,000 visitors a year.
The Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans said: “‘We feel strongly that far too few people realise the importance of St Alban as our first British saint and of St Albans Cathedral as our oldest place of Christian worship. The HLF grant is helping us put this right. It will enable us to present Alban’s story and the amazingly rich heritage of the Cathedral much more effectively. We shall rebuild the shrine of Amphibalus which was destroyed in the Reformation and restore it to its original glory. And we shall have a beautiful new entrance building with better facilities to welcome visitors and pilgrims. We are extremely grateful to HLF and all who have supported this project – and to God. Deo gratias!’.”
“This is great news for the Cathedral and for St Albans. The Cathedral’s ambition to tell their story acted as a catalyst for wider developments. In particular the Town Hall Museum and Gallery, the Roman Museum at Verulamium Park, the Clock Tower and medieval streets around the Cathedral. This funding success shows what can be done when the community works together. Congratulations are due to the Dean, the Cathedral Chapter and to the Heritage Lottery Fund for bringing life to the long term vision,” added Cllr Julian Daly, Executive Leader of the St Albans City and District Council.
Carole Souter, Chief Executive of HLF, said: “Over the past 20 years the Heritage Lottery Fund has invested more than £70m in cathedrals across the UK. As feats of architectural genius they are treasured by local communities and tourists alike. Their sheer scale and magnificence has the ability to leave us awestruck by the levels of craftsmanship and technical ingenuity that were achieved so many centuries ago. St Albans Cathedral has a great story to tell and we look forward to seeing plans evolve over the coming year.”