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Discover DeCrypt opens its doors to the public after £2.1m restoration

PUBLISHED: 11:04 03 April 2019

Discover DeCrypt and the church of St Mary de Crypt, on Southgate Street, Gloucester (c) Andrew Higgins/TWM

Discover DeCrypt and the church of St Mary de Crypt, on Southgate Street, Gloucester (c) Andrew Higgins/TWM

© Thousand Word Media

A National Lottery Heritage Fund grant and generous donations have made the restoration of St Mary de Crypt Church and the Old Crypt Schoolroom possible

St Mary de Crypt Church and the Old Crypt Schoolroom are ready for a bright new future when they open their doors for the first time following completion of a £2.1 million restoration project. The work has been made possible by National Lottery players through a £1.36million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, as well as generous donations from many other trusts, organisations and individuals.

The two year long programme of works led by Discover DeCrypt and project managed by heritage-led regeneration specialists The Prince’s Foundation, has given a new lease of life to the Grade I listed church and Grade II* listed schoolroom as a creative hub, heritage attraction, community centre, events venue and place of worship for the 21st century.

Nicola Dyer, Senior Project Manager, The Prince’s Foundation, is delighted with the results: “This is a wonderful project for The Prince’s Foundation to have collaborated on. Leading a talented and dedicated design team, and working alongside committed trustees andstaff as well as a supportive principal contractor, has been a great privilege.This amazing building is now ready to extend its welcome to a wider audience and reclaim its role as both an ancient place of worship and an importantnew part of Gloucester’s cultural as well as physical cityscape.”

The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, speaking at the Service of Celebration (c) Andrew Higgins/TWMThe Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, speaking at the Service of Celebration (c) Andrew Higgins/TWM

Rev. Canon Nikki Arthy, said: “As we celebrate the reopening of Discover DeCrypt, we thank all those who have supported us both financially and in so many other ways. We are delighted that these historic buildings, so significant as a place of faith and community, will once again stand at the heart of Gloucester for all to enjoy. As we take inspiration from the significant figures of our historic past whose Christian faith has transformed society, we hope that we can continue to be a place where faith is explored and lived.”

St Mary de Crypt is an exceptional church not only because it is beautiful and historic but also because it is a unique and irreplaceable part of Gloucester’s proud history. Unfortunately, its community use had diminished through the decline in city living. The schoolroom was un-useable due to a lack of repairs and subsequent dilapidation. The congregation had dwindled and the church was at real risk of being declared redundant. The establishment of Discover DeCrypt and the involvement of The Prince’s Foundation changed that. Work carried out by Croft Building & Conservation and project-managed by The Prince’s Foundation, required a ‘light touch’ approach, sensitively repairing the interior of the church and schoolroom. There have been some remarkable archaeological discoveries during the works, showing the long history of buildings on this site. You can even find schoolboy graffiti on the schoolroom paneling dating back to the eighteenth century.

Essential improvements include new electrics and underfloor heating ensuring visitors to Discover DeCrypt receive a bright and warm welcome and allowing the buildings to be used all year round.

The Service of Celebration to mark the reopening of Discover DeCrypt in Gloucester (c) Andrew Higgins/TWMThe Service of Celebration to mark the reopening of Discover DeCrypt in Gloucester (c) Andrew Higgins/TWM

A new accessible toilet and lift have been installed improving access and use for the community.

The buildings are now a flagship of community, heritage, worship and creativity in the heart of the city open to everyone. Bookings have already been made for heritage tours, creative workshops, children’s holiday clubs, concerts and various private hires. Discover De Crypt expect there to be 20,000 people a year using the restored building as visitors and worshipers.

Following the renovation, Discover DeCrypt will offer interactive interpretation trails celebrating the lives, the faith and the influence of both men. Alongside Raikes and Whitefield, there will also be an interactive trail celebrating the life and work of Joan Cooke, the woman who was responsible for the building of the Old Crypt Schoolroom, the first free school for Gloucester.

Richard Graham, MP for Gloucester, Rev.Canon Nikki Arthy, Rector of St Mary de Crypt, Councillor Joanne Brown, Mayor of Gloucester, Mayor's Consort David Brown, and Councillor Howard Hyman, Deputy Mayor and Sheriff of Gloucester (c) Andrew Higgins/TWMRichard Graham, MP for Gloucester, Rev.Canon Nikki Arthy, Rector of St Mary de Crypt, Councillor Joanne Brown, Mayor of Gloucester, Mayor's Consort David Brown, and Councillor Howard Hyman, Deputy Mayor and Sheriff of Gloucester (c) Andrew Higgins/TWM

Jason Smith, President of the Old Cryptians Club and Chief Executive of Marketing Gloucester, believes the church and schoolroom will be a very valuable asset to Gloucester: “The restored St Mary de Crypt and Old Crypt schoolroom will be a huge asset to the city and likely to be a big attraction to visitors, especially from the USA, where there is a huge interest in the connections with the preacher George Whitefield. As President of the Old Cryptians Club, the building has a special place in my heart and I am delighted to see the incredibly high quality and sensitivity of the renovation which will also make the space usable for the whole community of Gloucester.”

The project has been made possible through generous support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Gloucester Environmental Trust, the Diocese of Gloucester, Gloucester City Council, Garfield Weston Foundation, Gloucester Historic Churches Trust, Sylvanus Lysons Charity, The Mercers’ Company, Swire Charitable Trust, Allchurches Trust, The Summerfield Trust, Gloucester Civic Trust, The National Churches Trust, Gloucestershire Disability Fund, Barnwood Trust and others including many personal donations.

For more information, visit discoverdecrypt.org.uk.

Read our ‘St Mary de Crypt Church and the Old Crypt School undergo regeneration thanks to local charity’ here.

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