Celebrating our HLF success
Creating a modern learning space in an historic building
In December 2011 Exeter Cathedral was successful in an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The grant supports the education work of the Cathedral for the next three years. It will fund the development of a new lifelong education programme, the recruitment of education and library and archive staff as well as the creation of a new dedicated education space.
Exeter Cathedral has been offering an education service for schools for over 25 years. Initially this service was delivered in two rooms situated off the Cloisters. However, demand for educational visits, particularly in the last few years has grown leaving the department struggling for space to hold activities and store resources. As part of the 2011 Heritage Lottery application the upper floor of the Pearson Building, located in the Cloister area, will be transformed into a dedicated learning space providing modern facilities whilst retaining its historic legacy. The space will unlock the potential for new, varied educational activities for people of all ages, enabling them to engage with the Cathedral, its community and its history on new levels. The building work is expected to be complete around Easter 2013.
A brief history of the building
In 1887 John Loughborough Pearson, the architect of Truro Cathedral, was commissioned to rebuild the cloisters of Exeter Cathedral (the medieval cloisters had been destroyed during the English Reformation). The aim was to rehome the Cathedral Library which had been housed in various locations over the years, including the Lady Chapel and the Chapter House. This image shows the Cathedral before Pearson's work.
Pearson was successful in building three bays to the south and two bays to the east. However, the rest of the project was shelved when funding ran out.
The finished work, whilst beautiful and impressive, was too small to house the library and so became home to the archives. These remained in place on the upper floor of the building until 2012 when work on the Bishop’s Palace was completed allowing the library and archives to be brought together again for many years.
Since 1990 the ground floor has been home to the Cathedral Café.
The Pearson Building will becarefully adapted to suit modern educational needs whilst maintaining its beautiful Victorian Gothic heritage. The room itself will be a secure, flexible space which can be either opened as one area or divided into two thanks to the insertion of a partition along the line of the arch at the join of the L-shaped room. A corridor will be built to enable access to both sides from the staircase behind. Currently this beautiful staircase is the main access to the space which visitors reach via the café on the ground floor. To improve this inconvenient route, primary access to the education space will be via a new lobby area in Church House (the adjoining building to the west). A disabled lift will be installed as part of the renovations in this area.
The lobby area will include dedicated toilets and cloakroom facilities. The room will have a hearing loop installed and new, improved signage will direct visitors clearly to the space.
What the changes mean for education
The newly available space in the Pearson Building provides a fantastic opportunity for creating and holding exciting learning activities in a safe and stimulating environment. The space itself is architecturally exciting with a striking wooden ceiling and windows which provide a wonderful view of the Cathedral’s flying buttresses, making the space an excellent teaching resource itself. As the new Education Centre its experiential learning potential will also be extended through the addition of a sensory display. On entering the Centre attention will be drawn to this display which will change throughout the year and could feature anything from vestments to manuscripts. It will be supported by a dramatic colour changing light system and surround sound speakers altogether creating a fully immersive, atmospheric experience.
The Centre itself will be a secure flexible space which can be either opened as one area or divided into two. The entire space will seat up to sixty people. The larger area will be suitable for lectures, large-scale activities, storytelling, craft sessions, role-play, debates or use as a general classroom. In addition to the sensory display it will also have a large interactive smartboard on which an introductory film will be played to groups and which can be used to support other activities through access to the internet etc. The smaller of the two spaces will have kitchen facilities and will be suitable for workshops and messy activities such as clay work, brass rubbing and painting.
For any enquiries regarding the HLF Pearson Building Project please contact the Visitors’ Department:
1a The Cloisters,
Telephone: 01392 285983
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