Building work begins at Southwell Palace / Community update - Saturday 21 September (02/09/13)
Ambitious plans by Southwell Minster, backed by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.3 million, to restore and update the former palace of the Archbishops of York gets under way in mid-September – and there will be a Community Open Day for public consultation on Saturday 21st September.
The Great Hall and the Ruins of the Palace are important buildings within the national heritage, the Great Hall being Grade One listed and the Ruins a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Charlie Leggatt of Southwell Minster, who is co-ordinating the project, emphasises their historical significance: “The Palace is first mentioned in Domesday Book and sits on part of the footprint of a large Roman Villa. Most of the medieval kings stayed here – the surviving State Chamber was their bedroom - and Cardinal Wolsey spent the last summer of his life in the Palace, trying in vain to appease the wrath of Henry VIII. King Richard ‘the Lionheart’ was an earlier visitor in 1194. Charles 1 used the Palace several times during the Civil War and there is a tale of him returning to the Palace dejected, when a Southwell tradesman refused to sell him a pair of shoes, sensing that the king’s time was nearly over...”
The plans are intended to open up the Palace to a wider public, to provide opportunities for learning groups and to stimulate tourism, benefitting the area economy. They include restoring and updating the Great Hall building, stabilising the walls of the ruins and creating a new Education Garden to the east (where a summer marquee can be erected). The project also sees the installation of a lift, fully accessing the first floor State Chamber; a kitchen; music library and studio flat for the resident organ scholar. On the ground floor, a new rehearsal room is created for the Girls’ Choir and the Minster Chorale, with private toilets for the choristers and young visitors, new public toilets with disabled facility and, outside, a lowered entrance path for wheelchair access.
Work on the ruins will provide training opportunities on the conservation of historic fabric of ancient buildings. Liz Rose, Lay Canon of the Minster and project architect, Mark Goodwill-Hodgson have organised professional training courses for members of RIBA and English Heritage and the Minster School ‘A’ Level students will be spending time learning about the history of the Ruins and conservation. “We have also had interest from the Southwell Community Archaeology Group and SPAB have also asked if we might have an event here for them. Younger history students may also make visits in the autumn term,” said Liz.
Charles Leggatt will be joined for the public consultation/debriefing in the Great Hall building on the 21st September by Mark Good-will Hodgson and the project’s activity co-ordinator, Dr Alix Slater. “We will be there all day but with discussion groups at 11am in the morning and 3pm in afternoon,” says Charlie. “Volunteer input will be assessed and we are keen to hear from any groups who can impact on the project.”