Exciting plans to transform St Mary’s Guildhall given approval

Published Tuesday, 26 January 2021

A £1.4m bid to help transform Coventry’s St Mary’s Guildhall into a major visitor attraction has been given the go ahead by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Heritage fund

The decision to approve the bid means that the exciting plans to turn the building into a first-class heritage destination and facility for visitors and residents can now be realised.

The transformational project will help deliver an improved and interactive visitor experience including interpretation, new digital technology, alongside an improved showcasing and interpretation of the wonderful Tapestry.

In addition, there will be a new visitor entrance, improved facilities, along with specific tours and trails to enhance the visitor experience. A three-year programme of events and activities, including a learning and engagement programme for schools, families and the wider community will also enhance the Guildhall’s offer and attract a more diverse and new audience base for the venue.

An increase in community engagement, outreach, volunteer participation and training of staff will all contribute to help sustain the project.

Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration and board director at the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said;

“This is fantastic news for Coventry as it confirms our own confidence that with financial backing, we can deliver an attraction befitting the Guildhall’s reputation as the finest medieval guildhall in England.

“I’ve been passionate about this project for a long time and it’s great that we can see a way forward to ensure the Guildhall no longer remains Coventry’s best kept secret, but becomes a destination which draws people from not only the UK but across the world.

“These are exciting times for the city as we continue our journey in 2021 and the ongoing regeneration of the city. The role St Mary’s can play in this story as being a major city centre destination bringing footfall and increased spend to the area is a key piece of this regeneration.”

Councillor David Welsh, Cabinet Member for Heritage, said:

“The excellent news of the financial support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund will enable a first-class heritage offer to be developed and delivered befitting the historical masterpiece that the Guildhall deserves.

“The development of the city’s heritage strategy places buildings such as the Guildhall as key both in relation to preserving what we have and ensuring they are protected for generations to come as well as enhancing a wider, more joined-up approach to promoting the city’s heritage and tourism visitor offer.

“The development will play a big role in aiding and promoting the true history of the building and its importance to local history – Coventry people should be aware of the Guildhall’s role at the heart of the city’s history for over 700 years.

“In addition to the massive benefits in enhancing the city’s heritage offer, the Guildhall can also play an important role in the cultural life of the city particularly around the engagement of local schools and communities.”  

Anne Jenkins, Director, England, Midlands & East, The National Lottery Heritage Fund said:

“We are excited to support Coventry City Council’s project to restore and transform St Mary’s Guildhall with money raised by The National Lottery.  We are particularly pleased to be able to help with the conservation and interpretation of the building’s wonderful medieval tapestry, which will be key part of bringing this important landmark to life for local residents and visitors to Coventry alike”. 

An initial £78k was previously granted to the project by The Heritage Fund back in April 2020 as part of the Development Phase works undertaken at the Guildhall which included a specialist survey of the medieval Tapestry.

During the next few weeks, Croft Construction will be leading on the initial internal courtyard and exterior scaffolding work ahead of phase one of the main construction improvement works due to start in February/March.

The overall £5.6m capital programme building project is being funded through the Cultural Capital Investment Fund, which is resourced from Coventry City Council, Arts Council England and the Getting Building Fund from the Government through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, with the National Lottery Heritage Fund initially granting development funding including exploratory work on the Coventry Tapestry.

In February 2020, Cabinet and Council approved up to £3 million capital support for St. Mary’s Guildhall.

To enable the necessary works and associated refurbishment of St. Mary’s Guildhall to be carried out, the Guildhall will remain temporarily closed.

Current plans are to have a partial re-opening of the Guildhall in Spring, with a full opening scheduled for December 2021 to tie-in with Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture.

For further full details on the project and sign up for the free St Mary’s Guildhall newsletter, please visit www.stmarysguildhall.co.uk

Coventry City Council