St Katherine’s – 900 years of history

Words by:
Kathy Holland
Featured in:
April 2011

The third in a series of articles about the continuing development of this new tourist destination and cultural centre
‘Brilliant and inspiring’ is how St Katherine’s has been described by an enthusiastic visitor. The venue opened just over a year ago and is a vibrant new tourist attraction, cultural resource, heritage, and education venue for the local community, the city of Lincoln, the region and beyond.

St Katherine’s is housed in a beautifully restored Victorian church building which lies over the site of the medieval Gilbertine Priory of St Katherine’s without Lincoln. The site has a rich history and heritage stretching back over at least 900 years with a wealth of stories to tell.

Interactive displays in St Katherine’s tell the story of the site and in addition there is an evolving programme of festivals, exhibitions and events. Last May a ‘Victorian Flower Festival’ took place in St Katherine’s which was enjoyed by many visitors and involved many volunteers whose enthusiasm and support were much appreciated. Exhibitions have included a display of images of Victorian Lincoln, an exhibition inspired by the medieval Luttrell Psalter and more recently ‘Toys and Games, Past and Present’. All exhibitions have a programme of supporting events including talks, concerts, family events and craft activities. In addition, St Katherine’s participates in national and local initiatives for example, Heritage Open Days and Family Days Out.

St Katherine’s has been open just over a year and more than 8,000 visitors have come through the doors. Many visitors have stayed a considerable time, immersing themselves in what the venue has on offer. The interactive displays are designed to appeal to visitors of differing age groups and a variety of learning styles and at the same time help promote interest and enjoyment in our history and heritage.

Pupils from schools across the county have visited St Katherine’s for creative cross curricular workshops. The ‘Victorian Christmas’ series proved very successful and saw pupils exploring the Victorian church, dressing in Victorian costume, discovering Christmas past and making traditional crackers. The workshops organised to link with the exhibition ‘Toys and Games, Past and Present’ were so popular that the exhibition was extended and additional sessions laid on for schools!

St Katherine’s has hosted several student placements from the Heritage Studies Course at Bishop Grossetetse University College. The most recent involved third year student Lesley Clarke developing a cross curricular family resource called the ‘Victorian Games Emporium’, which has proved popular with family groups of all ages. Four first year students are currently working on developing a small display featuring community aspects of the church in the twentieth century.

St Katherine’s is already an award winning venue having won the prestigious Lincolnshire Heritage ‘Museum of the Year 2010’ award. The venue was also awarded accreditation to the Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme (VAQAS) within one year of opening.

Although St Katherine’s opened in February 2010, there are exciting new developments still to take place. Subject to funding, the installation of the fully restored Grand Organ should be completed and operational within the next few months. The Grand Organ is a unique instrument dating to 1856 and will be used for recitals and concerts which will help support the long term sustainability of the site. Also to be completed is the west window, which was removed at some point in the past. The Priory Trust is seeking funding to complete this part of the project.

The current exhibition which runs until 4th June is ‘The Lady of Shalott’. The exhibition focuses on the film dramatisation of the much loved poem written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Lincolnshire’s famous poet. The film was produced by WAGSCREEN and the accompanying exhibition will include items which belonged to Tennyson and have been kindly loaned by the Tennyson Research Centre. Themes for future exhibitions include ‘Food, Festivals and Folklore’, ‘Lincolnshire Churches’, ‘St Gilbert and the Gilbertines’ and the much loved ‘Eleanor Cross Story’.

St Katherine’s continues to plan and develop the cross curricular schools programme and every exhibition will have creative workshops linked to it. Popular workshops including ‘Victorian Christmas’ and ‘Toys and Games’ will continue to be offered and we are always willing to discuss new opportunities and ideas for working with schools.

St Katherine’s is part of the Priory Trust Estate which includes the adjacent Priory Centre and administrative offices located off site. A wide variety of training courses and leisure activities are available at the Priory Centre and spaces are available for hire for weddings, conferences, weddings, christening and community events. The Priory Coffee Shop is located in the Priory Centre and will be open Tuesday – Saturday 10.30am – 3.30pm.

St Katherine’s is working hard to work towards a sustainable future. The project has been funded and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Lincolnshire Enterprise, EMDA, WREN, Lincolnshire County Council, Lincoln City Council, and REM. The ongoing development of the site can only continue if the venue is sustainable. In the difficult and very challenging current financial climate, the Priory Trust is constantly seeking new funding opportunities.

We look forward to welcoming you in St Katherine’s.

St Katherine’s – 900 years of History, Heritage and Cultural venue, South Park, Lincoln LN5 8LN is open Tuesday – Saturday 10.00am – 4.00pm. Admission is FREE with a charge for special events.

To find out more please visit www.stkatherineslincoln or call 01522 572778

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