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Heritage Lottery Fund helps St Mary's Church build on success (12th February 2014)

Heritage Lottery Fund helps St Mary's Church build on success

The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) has received £94,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its 'Visitor Welcome' project, to develop a flagship visitor experience at St Mary the Virgin Church in Shrewsbury.

Visitors will learn about the church’s history in new ways, and improved facilities such as a café and shop will help them enjoy their visit. The project will also provide new opportunities for people to become involved in St Mary’s.

The Visitor Welcome project builds on the success of the church as a tourist attraction. In 2013 the volunteer stewards won the Shrewsbury Town Council’s Mayoral Silver Award in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the community, the teams’ hard work also achieved a VAQAS (Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme) award in 2012.

This growing success has inspired The Churches Conservation Trust to forge new partnerships with Visit Shrewsbury and other iconic religious sites in Shrewsbury such as St Chads and the Abbey in order to create a walk for tourists linking these great sites entitled ‘Three Wonders to Wander Through’ .

St Mary’s like Shrewsbury itself is a ‘one off’, its tower has dominated the Shrewsbury townscape for over 500 years, and inside monuments, architecture and decorations tell the stories of the town and its community for generations. It is this unique heritage that we want to promote to the nation and local community alike.

Commenting on the award, Rebecca Rees, Project Director for The Churches Conservation Trust said:

“We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund for this project. Now, thousands of visitors will discover the history of this magnificent heritage site. As part of our plans we want members of the local community to become involved and help us deliver an excellent experience for visitors, and secure the future of this church.”

Eric Fairbrother stewarding team leader at St Mary’s response to the news was:

“We are a great team of volunteers at St. Mary's consisting of individuals with a wide variety of skills and interests. There are many areas that volunteers can be involved in ranging from meeting and greeting visitors, conducting tours, fundraising, interpreting the storey for our visitors, to helping in the church shop. Why don't you come and join us for a very satisfying, fun and rewarding volunteering experience. "

Reyahn King, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, said:

“This magnificent Grade 1 listed church acts as a magnet for visitors to Shrewsbury. This project will enhance the visitor experience and also capitalizes on the enthusiasm of local volunteers to share their knowledge and love of the building.”

Anyone wanting to get involved in welcoming visitors to St Mary’s and helping secure this special place for generations to come can contact Robert Milton, The Churches Conservation Trust’s Volunteer Officer at rmilton@thecct.org.uk or call 0113 244 1689.

Alternatively, those just looking for a challenge can get involved on 29/30 March as St Mary’s Church will host an abseil down the church spire. For more information go to http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/overthetop/