Project completion marked at Abbey
The Rt. Rev’d Dr Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford, conducted a special Service of Thanksgiving at Wymondham Abbey on Sunday, November 15 to mark the completion of The Abbey Experience, the biggest change to the church since Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The £2.75 million project, supported by a £1.75 million grant for the Heritage Lottery Fund, grants from charitable trusts and local fundraising has greatly improved public access in the building and aims to strengthen links with the local community.
Over the last 18 months two extensions have been added to the east end of the church featuring much needed new facilities, including an activity area for school visits, meeting rooms, space to display items from the Abbey’s archive, colourful interpretation about the Abbey’s story, toilets and a servery. The great West Doors, closed for 50 years, have been re-opened to enable the processional route to be used on special occasions and the South Aisle, once hidden by a large partition, has been restored.
Speaking to the packed congregation, the Bishop of Thetford said: “This is a moment to celebrate together the completion of The Abbey Development project, the first major change to the building for 500 years. This is a restoration of something that was lost at the Reformation; the restoration of the fabric of the former priory, so that Benedictine hospitality and welcome can be foremost. This building is for all who will visit. This is a gift not for you (the congregation) to enjoy, but a vehicle for others to encounter the love of God that inspired this building to be built and its restoration.”
Wymondham Abbey, NR18 0PH, is open daily 10am to 4pm, t. 01953 607062, www.wymondhamabbey.com.
Wymondham Abbey was founded as a Benedictine Priory in 1107 by William d’Aubigny, Chief Butler to King Henry I and was a dependency of the Benedictine Monastery of St Albans. From the start the church was divided between the monks’ and the townspeople’s areas. This was the cause of regular disputes. The priory was closed in 1538 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and was gradually demolished, but the parish church survived.
Pictured in the new St Benedict's area left to right: Sybil Martin, Church Warden, The Rev'd Canon Christopher Davies, Vicar and Chair of The Abbey Project Steering Group, The Rt. Rev’d Dr Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford, Brian Randall Church Warden, Bernard Douglass Church Warden and Mike Halls Vice Chair The Abbey Project Steering Group.