Celebrating Lincoln Cathedral’s preservation project
With the National Lottery Funded Lincoln Cathedral Connected Project now complete, Barbara Young discovers how visitors enjoy new opportunities to engage with the history of this unique building.
History and conservation came together as visitors and dignitaries enjoyed a celebration marking the official opening ceremony of the seven-year Lincoln Cathedral Connected Project, which has seen the completion of essential restoration and conservation work with the addition of a new visitor centre.
Thanks to the £16m funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Ross Foundation and a number of additional private and corporate donors, this momentous project has also created new inspirational spaces for the community with a programme of family and educational activities encouraging more visitors to engage with the life and history of this iconic building.
The occasion celebrated the culmination of a period of transformation for the cathedral, with the imposing West Front and Romanesque Frieze unveiled free of scaffolding and protective casing for the first time in four decades and the careful restoration of the 13th-century Exchequergate Arch.
The project also included the development of the Old Deanery and Dean’s Green into a new visitor centre, with café and shop, learning centre, exhibition gallery, Discovery Centre and community rooms.
The Dean of Lincoln, Christine Wilson and Eilish McGuinness, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, hosted the welcome and opening ceremony paying tribute to “the hundreds of people who have contributed to the completion of this milestone in the cathedral’s history”.
West Front conservation work
The imposing West Front, which dates back to the original construction of the cathedral in 1072 following the Norman Conquest, included five years of conservation and cleaning work to the Romanesque Frieze, the Gallery of Kings and statues of bishops.
During this time, the panels of the 12th-century Romanesque Frieze, which depicts scenes from stories in both the Old and New Testament, were extracted from the West Front so that their condition could be assessed in the workshop.
As part of the conservation work, copy carvings were made, but only one was used, so the original carvings remain on the building with the copy carvings in the climate-controlled exhibition gallery, alongside the originals removed in the 1990s and a collection of artefacts discovered during the works.
Developing The Dean’s Green
Formerly part of Lincoln Minster School, The Dean’s Green has been beautifully landscaped and transformed to create a peaceful outdoor space, complete with fountain, which is open to the public.
The Old Deanery, built in the 1850s, has also had a new lease of life with an adjoining building created which connects the Deanery to the cloister wall and linking it to the cathedral.
Centre is also home to the modern Discovery Centre, which hosts hands-on activities for all ages, as well as interactive exhibits which help visitors learn more about life at the cathedral.
The new purpose-built Learning Centre, which has already welcomed 7,000 young visitors to date, aims to inspire schoolchildren aged from five to 15 in a light and airy, fun and functional classroom.
Welcoming shop and café
The new Visitor Centre’s café, with indoor and outdoor seating, serves seasonal menu of locally sourced food. Open seven days a week, the venue is also available for weddings and private parties, while upstairs the three fully equipped meeting rooms with views over the cathedral are available for businesses, charities and local community groups to hire.
Opened in June 2021, the perfectly positioned air-conditioned shop stocks a range of unique gifts and produce, including locally sourced honey, preserves, chocolates, gins and ales, as well as exclusive merchandise designed by Sophie Allport.
If you’re looking for an intriguing, informative and inspiring day out to enjoy one of Europe’s finest examples of Gothic architecture, Lincoln Cathedral’s innovative new centre offers the best all round visitor experience to discover the true story behind the county’s favourite must-see attraction.
For more information visit www.lincolncathedral.com