Work has started on a major extension and refurbishment to St Asaph Cathedral.
The new facilities will include a tea room, community meeting rooms and toilets and will compliment a major interactive development for the ancient Cathedral.
The third of a million-pound project has been designed by Newtown based architects Darnton B3. Grosvenor Construction from Kinmel Bay are carrying out the work, which is expected to be completed later in the year.
The Dean of St Asaph Cathedral, the Very Reverend Nigel Williams said: “These are exciting times for St Asaph Cathedral and the city. The design and development of the extension and refurbishment of the Cathedral have taken a long time to plan but we are delighted that work has now started and look forward to the extension opening over the summer.
“The new tearoom and facilities will be a major boost for tourism to the city, encouraging coach companies to stop in St Asaph and visit the Cathedral and local area.”
Construction of the new development is expected to take approximately five months to complete but the Cathedral will remain open throughout the works. Access through the Cathedral grounds will also remain unimpaired.
Architect, Geriant Roberts from Darnton B3, which is project managing construction of the extension said: “We are delighted to be overseeing this work which will provide much needed new facilities for the Cathedral. The design is sympathetic to the ancient building and meets all the stringent planning and other regulations.”
Grosvenor Construction has extensive experience working with ancient buildings, like St Asaph Cathedral. One of its directors, Will Mellor, said: “As a specialist building conservation company, based locally, we bring a wealth of experience and skilled craftsmanship to this project. We’re proud to be involved in the extension of this much loved and highly visible local landmark.”
Plans for the extension were approved last year by Denbighshire County Council and the Diocesan Advisory Committee issued a Faculty for the work. Extensive archaeological excavation, overseen by Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, has been taking place in recent months to ensure no ancient graves are disturbed by the construction work. This groundworks phase has now been completed and the area passed for construction to begin.
More than £130,000 of grants have been secured from various funding bodies, including WREN (£50,000) and the Garfield Weston Foundation (£25,000). The rest of the money has been raised by the Cathedral or left as legacies. In addition, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a development grant for interactive activities to safeguard and promote the Cathedral’s historical and religious treasures.
Last year, the Cathedral was awarded £36,000 by the HLF to research interactive displays in the Cathedral. A recent consultation on proposals for the new activities produced positive and encouraging feedback.
Nigel Williams added: “The responses from the consultation have enabled us to apply to the HLF for the full grant of £243,000. If we’re successful we can develop the displays which will properly show-off the many treasures housed within the Cathedral. In addition, we will be able to employ a dedicated activities officer to run schools’ visits and develop sessions targeting hard to reach audiences.”
The Cathedral, which is one of the oldest in Wales, tells the stories of St Asaph and St Kentigern and was instrumental in the preservation of the Welsh language through the translation of the Bible into Welsh. Today it houses one of only 20 known copies of the original William Morgan Bible dating from 1588 but urgently needs new facilities to preserve the manuscript for future generations.