A project to transform and regenerate Wymondham Abbey has been given the green light after a £1.5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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The Abbey, which welcomes 20,000 people through its doors each year, is undertaking The Abbey Experience, a project to make the building more available to the community.

The project aims to work with schools, colleges and businesses to welcome more people to the Abbey while developing tourism links and improving signs around the town.

Two new extensions – one within the ruined chapel – will create space for visitors, including families and schoolchildren, to learn about the Abbey’s history.

An archive of documents, dating back 700 years, will be conserved and some, including a 1613 King James Bible, will be restored.

Public access for organised groups will, for the first time, be permitted to the Abbey Meadows which are a county wildlife site.

The vicar of Wymondham Abbey, Canon Christopher Davies, said he was delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund had given its support.

“This thrilling news greatly encourages us and means we can achieve our vision that the Abbey will be more welcoming and accessible to everyone and that its place in the life of the community is greatly strengthened.”

Two dedicated learning spaces and a choir vestry will be created and the project will also permit an archaeological dig to take place on the site of the grade I listed building.

The Abbey plans to work closely with schools and a full-time learning and events officer will be employed for three years to work with volunteers and arrange open days and hard-hat tours while the restoration and building works are ongoing.

Events aimed specifically at schoolchildren will be created, along with an introductory film about the building’s history.

Joe Mooney, county and district councillor for Wymondham said: “I am absolutely delighted to hear that the Abbey’s application to the Heritage Lottery fund was successful.

“Although there is still a shortfall in their funding, this excellent news will go along way towards moving the Abbey Experience Project forward.”

Robyn Llewellyn, head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “The distinctive form of the Abbey, visible from miles around, must spark many questions in people’s minds. This project will provide answers and so much more for visitors young and old to experience and learn from.”

The project is being managed by Wymondham Abbey Parochial Church Council.

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