Hexham Abbey has appointed a specialist building contractor to begin work on its £3.2m restoration project.
Building work by York-based William Anelay Ltd is due to begin within the month to restore the abbey’s medieval monastery buildings and the adjacent former magistrates’ courts, to create a facility for the region comprising a heritage centre, community meeting rooms, conference, function and wedding facilities.
It will reunite the abbey site for the first time in 500 years, following the removal of the monastery complex from the church by Henry VIII in 1537. The ambitious project to redevelop the 13th Century monastery is a landmark in the abbey’s 1,339-year history that has been funded by a £1.8m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and funds raised by the congregation, the community and on-going applications to various grant-making trusts.
Established in 1747, William Anelay Ltd specialises in the restoration, conservation and refurbishment of listed and historic buildings and the company will work closely with the abbey’s heritage team and within English Heritage guidelines.
The firm is engaged in projects at York Minster and Wakefield Cathedral and has a long history of restoration projects nationwide.
Canon Graham Usher, rector of Hexham, said: “The appointment of William Anelay follows a complex tender process and represents a major step forward for the Hexham Abbey Project, which is on track to deliver a new landmark for the region by summer 2014. I look forward to work beginning.”
The complex building works will begin with stripping out centuries of additions so revealing the original interior of the building.
The works will be carried out in such a way as to minimise any disruption to the Abbey, mindful of the health and safety of the general public.
“The success of our applications to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other grant-making trusts, in addition to the huge efforts of the community, means we now have a once-in-500-year opportunity to reunite our medieval monastic complex and restore and redevelop it for everyone,” said Canon Usher.
Visitors to the abbey, which has a 600-strong congregation, contribute nearly £3m to the local economy and it is expected new facilities will enhance the economic contribution it makes to the area.