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£1.5m visitor centre is planned for Christchurch Priory
A NEW visitor centre costing £1.5million could be built at the historic Priory Church in Christchurch.
The centre is planned to include a museum, relocated shop, new church hall and refectory to accommodate the 100,000 visitors the 900-year-old Priory attracts every year.
The church already has a museum but it can only be reached by climbing up 75 steps as it occupies an old schoolroom above the Lady Chapel.
Potentially located on the ground floor of Priory House, which was built in the 1700s on part of the site of the Augustinian monastery, the museum would capture the rich history of the church.
The foundations of the monastery remain beneath Priory House garden and car park and still standing are the porter’s lodge, the former brewhouse and part of the monastery walls and a lookout tower.
“We feel there is a lot of scope for producing an interpretation of the whole of the monastic precincts, down to the Mill Stream, maybe with a trail map and posts marking the various features,” said Mike Beams, the Priory’s property management chairman.
The project is being jointly promoted by the church and Priory House Charity, which owns a considerable amount of surrounding land, under a new “Working Together” initiative.
“A preliminary estimate of the total cost is £1.5million,” said Mike. “The church hopes to raise a substantial part of this by selling existing assets, but we will have to fundraise for the remainder, so if there are any generous benefactors out there...”
One of the assets earmarked for disposal is the present church hall in Princess Avenue, hired out to other local organisations. It is proposed to replace this with a new hall of the same capacity.
The centre would stand at the back of Priory House and would have a glass wall on the side opposite the south face of the church.
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