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Plans to improve Norfolk arts centre

PUBLISHED: 06:57 05 May 2010 | UPDATED: 10:14 02 July 2010

Stephanie Brooks

First steps have been taken to see whether Wymondham Arts Centre can be developed to make the medieval building more suitable for exhibitions and comfortable for visitors.

First steps have been taken to see whether Wymondham Arts Centre can be developed to make the medieval building more suitable for exhibitions and comfortable for visitors.

Wymondham Arts Forum has commissioned architects from Lucas Hickman Smith to undertake a feasibility study which will outline various possibilities for improvements to the 12th century Becket's Chapel, the centre's current home.

The £6,000 study, which is being funded by South Norfolk Council and Wymondham Town Council, will look at options including updating toilet and kitchen facilities, heating and lighting systems, increased display surfaces for artwork and a possible extension.

Lucas Hickman Smith is expected to deliver a first draft on its findings, along with estimated costs for any future work, at the end of the summer.

The forum will then decide what development it wishes to undertake in consultation with the building's owners and other interested groups and will begin to arrange funding.

It first leased the grade 1 listed building from its owner the Wymondham Old Grammar School Foundation for a six month trial last summer to host art exhibitions and events, such as music recitals and poetry readings.

More than 11,000 visits were recorded during that period, and the forum has continued the arrangement this year for nine months. So far the centre has already welcomed about 2,500 visitors since it re-opened in March.

Professor Arthur Lucas, chairman of the steering group leading the development project, said the growing popularity of the centre proved it was a building worthy of investment.

He said: “If we are to continue to use the building as a centre for the arts it is essential that we have good professional advice on a range of possibilities for its future development.

“This will provide vital evidence when we have decided what improvements we would like to make and start to discuss the possibilities with the Old Grammar School trustees, English Heritage, South Norfolk Council planners and, above all, the charities and trusts who may be able to help us finance the project.”

Becket's Chapel was built in 1174 and served as a chapel for the many town guilds before becoming a grammar school in 1549.

When the school moved out in the early 1800s it was used for town functions before it re-opened in 1949 as a library.

It became vacant once again when the library relocated to a new building next to the town's Central Hall in 2008.

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