Thomas Sinden completes Welcome Centre at St Albans Cathedral

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Chapter House, Welcome Centre
© Alessandro Ricardo Bentivoglio Uva

Thomas Sinden has completed a new single storey Welcome Centre, connecting the Norman cathedral with the 20th century Chapter House

The £7m plus project has been funded by around £4.2m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and over £3m raised by the Cathedral through more than 1,000 donors.

Work on the oldest site of continuous Christian worship began in May 2017, when archaeologists from the Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT) performed a dig to explore the foundations of what is now the new Welcome Centre. Between 1750 and 1852, this area was known to have been used as a parish graveyard and the team from CAT found a very concentrated burial site. 

Graeme Sinden, director of Thomas Sinden, comments: “It has been an honour for Thomas Sinden to be part of such an historic and significant project.

“We have extensive experience working on heritage projects and throughout the build our team worked closely with the archaeologists and team at the cathedral to ensure everything was protected and preserved, whilst we sympathetically connected the main Grade I listed Cathedral to the 1980s Chapter House building.

The work on St Albans Cathedral has been a flagship project for our company and we look forward to seeing visitors of all ages enjoy the new Welcome Centre for many years to come.”

Andy Davey of Simpson & Brown Architects, said: “It has been both a pleasure and a challenge working on the new Welcome Centre.

“Designing a new building to slot into the constricted space between the grandiose mass of the historic cathedral and Sir William Whitfield’s modern and highly respected Chapter House has been a demanding task, and one which has called for balancing many different requirements and opinions.

“Although the finished building is deliberately intended to be respectfully understated – taking its design lead from the historic boundary wall that once enclosed the Monks’ Graveyard on the site – our overall aim has been that it should also engender an uplifting and exciting sense of arrival for visitors to the Cathedral, so that their appreciation of this very special place will be greatly enhanced, and passed on to others in the future.”

The new building is part of a major redevelopment programme which will boost awareness of the historic church’s 1,700-year history. The Cathedral was built on the burial site of Alban – Britain’s first Christian martyr. The ancient structure is thought to be Britain’s first Christian shrine and the country’s longest serving centre of Christian worship.

The project has also created a new exhibition focusing on the unique history of the church which currently receives over 200,000 visitors a year. The main Cathedral and Deanery buildings remained open to staff and the public throughout the duration of works.

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