MULTI-MILLION pound plans have been unveiled to transform England’s largest parish church and make it a key cultural and tourism venue in time for Hull’s year as City of Culture in 2017.
The cluttered Victorian interior of Hull’s Holy Trinity Church, full of pews, will be stripped out to form a space for banquets, concerts and cultural events as well services.
The £4.5m plans include a glass-walled cafe and extension, with seating outside and fountains.
The churchyard wall will be taken down and the towering black poplar - which the church has long wanted to fell - taken down to make the churchyard and Trinity Square a seamless space and natural starting point for tours of the Old Town.
A glazed entrance will allow the West Doors facing the square to remain open all year round and allow an uninterrupted view through to the East Window.
In recent years the church has become a venue for a popular real ale festival, concerts and plays. It has also made no secret of its struggles to pay the bills and the new cafe as well as shop, along with extra events, should bring in much-needed revenue.
Officials say that if the building is not made fit for a new generation, it will die: “It will not be a church it will become a decaying building.”
Rev Canon Dr Neal Barnes said: “We started planning well before 2017 was being thought of, 2017 gives us a brilliant opportunity to do something very special for the city.”
The project already has £1.5m in pledges from benefactors, with the rest to be raised from donations, trust funds and foundations. Subject to planning permission from Hull Council and consent from the Diocese of York, work will begin early next year and should be completed by late 2016.
John Robinson, chair of Holy Trinity Development Trust, called on individuals and businesses who have prospered in the city to back the project: “This project can only happen if the people of Hull want this to happen and pay for it.”
He added: “Everything is going the right way for Hull at the moment; there is momentum.
“You can see huge potential from what’s been happening in the past few years.”
He added: “The space will feel much bigger, more dramatic and uplifting and highlight the stained glass windows because there will be no clutter. If you stand in the middle of the square the doors will always be open and you will be able to see the wonderful East Window.”
Mr Barnes said the project was part of the evolution of the 700-year-old church, which is as old as the city itself and at one time had markets and courts.
The carved pew ends will be used to create individual stalls in three tiered rows at either side of the church, seating around 200 people.
He said: “Our facilities fall down in many ways; we want people to feel it is part of their space and that they are encouraged in - making the space warm and welcoming with comfortable seating and decent toilets and a cafe.
“When we have the real ale festival you have lots of people saying they can’t believe they are enjoying a pint in such a beautiful space.
“We do want people to be surprised by what they find.”
The church says it now has nearly triple the number of people attending services as it did four years ago and double the number of visitors.
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu has also backed the plans. He said: “One of the great Biblical images of the Kingdom of God is a banquet where all are invited to the feast. The Church should embody that welcome in all that it does.”
International design firm Arup & Partners has been chosen to design and oversee what is being billed as the largest city centre transformation project in Hull’s history ahead of its year in the spotlight in 2017.
The first £12.7m phase of the scheme aims to update and improve connections in a swathe of the city centre between the railway station and Fruit Market.
A separate contractor will be appointed to do the construction work, which Hull Council says will create 200 jobs.
The council estimates that the revamp will increase retail turnover by £70m, supporting around 50 retail jobs.