HIDDEN treasures are set to be revealed after Durham Cathedral was given a £3.9million boost.
The landmark building has received the sum from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the £10million cost of the next phase of its Open Treasure Project.
Those behind the scheme are hoping to transform the way people enjoy the cathedral, which attracts more than 600,000 visitors a year.
The aim is to reopen parts of the building to the public and also exhibit some of its impressive artefacts, which include a reissue of the 13th century Magna Carta, dated 1216.
Dene of Durham, the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, said it is a landmark moment for the site, which houses the body of St Cuthbert in its Feretory and the Tomb of the Venerable Bede in The Galilee Chapel.
“I’m really delighted,” he said. “This is wonderful news. We really want to enhance what we offer visitors – open up rooms and treasures – we love it and we want you to love it as well. This is a huge boost as we continue to seek the full funding required to realise the creation of first- class exhibition spaces worthy of the cathedral’s collections.”
The money will be used to create an exhibition facility that could attract displays from national and international museums.
Niall Hammond, committee member for the Heritage Lottery Fund, said he is “delighted” to be able to help create such a space in the 12th century building. “We were exceptionally happy to support this application,” he said.
“So many spaces have been hidden away and this is a fantastic opportunity to open it. It will give access to the amazing displays they have here and create a world-class exhibition space so things can be brought into the region that wouldn’t normally be seen here. It’s going to be a great thing for people in the region and a way to increase tourism and its benefits.”
The first phase of the Open Treasure project was completed in autumn 2012.
New choir vestries are now in use and a new cathedral shop.
As part of the next phase of Open Treasure, a new exhibition that includes Anglo-Saxon artefacts such as St Cuthbert’s coffin will be created in the Monastic Great Kitchen, which will be the culmination of a journey through some of the cloistral buildings.
The archaeological stage of the project will begin in February, and work will officially start next summer, aiming for exhibition spaces to be completed in 2015.
Chris Cotton, of Purcell, architect for Open Treasure, said it is exciting to be able to develop the unique building.
“Durham is unique having this collection of cloistral buildings which are visited and enjoyed, but not visited by millions. This money will give the opportunity to really tell the story of Durham, and will have an active role in bringing people to Durham.
“Part of the project is to raise the profile of the cathedral, and open its doors.
“We want to spread the word nationally and internationally.”