(Above) The chapel and priory at St Katherine's have a rich story stretching back to the 12th century
A 900-year-old Medieval priory which served as a royal burial site, sheltered the town bishops on the eve of their inaugurations and became the home of a sprawling 16th century mansion will invite visitors to glimpse its displays before work begins to turn it into a heritage and tourism centre.
St Katherine's, a Grade II-listed building named after the Patron Saint of Learning whose torture on a wheel gave rise to the Catherine Wheel firework, will open as a public venue in February, but residents can get a sneak preview of its Victorian interior on Wednesday (November 25).
The final stage of work on the Victorian interior of the building is expected to be completed by February 2010
The project had originally been planned for completion by the end of 2009, but the complicated list of glass and slate refurbishments required, including the hoisting of the Lincoln City Grand Organ onto the upper floor of the Wesleyan church, means it will now open in February 2010.
Interactive exhibits exploring the history of the grounds, gallery shows and a programme of festivals and events for all ages will take place at the centre, standing on the site of a Gilbertine priory founded in 1148.
The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £1.39 million to the project
It began life as a support outlet for nearby hospitals and entry point for visitors to the town, belonging to the monastic order of Gilbert of Sempringham, a Lincolnshire man who became one of the county’s Saints.
The body of Queen Eleanor, wife of Edward I, lay in state at the Priory, and canons stayed in the building on the night before being appointed, but the Black Death pandemic in the mid 14th century and the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII decimated religious activity in the region. William Griffiths surrendered St Katherine’s to Henry VIII’s crown in 1538.
St Katherine's has been a home for community activities for centuries
The prominent Grantham family bought the Priory and turned it into a mansion known as St Katherine’s Hall, frequently welcoming Royal guests. It changed hands a number of times in the 19th century, and the “K” was changed to a “C” when Methodists renamed it as St Catherine’s chapel.
After being sold in 1977, the buildings fell into a state of disrepair and were placed on the Buildings at Risk Register. A trust reopened it as a popular community centre, and the “very exciting” restoration scheme won £1.3 in Lottery funding. Education activities and events have taken place there on a regular basis.
Lincolnshire County Council and the Heritage Environment Record, which holds a record of all known archaeology in Lincolnshire, will be offering heritage presentations during the afternoon, and refreshments in aid of the project will be sold.
Open 11am-6pm. St Katherine’s, South Park roundabout, High Street, Lincoln. Visit St Katherine’s online for full details.