Centre of excellence for centuries-old heritage skills planned for precinct around York Minster

An ambitious bid to create an internationally-renowned campus for research and training in centuries-old heritage skills around York Minster has been unveiled.

York Minster
York Minster

The plan to create a world-class centre to educate the next generations of highly-skilled craftspeople and artisans is seen as a vital move to help with the restoration and conservation of the cathedral in the heart of the historic city, as well as the nation’s other ancient buildings and monuments.

The new development is also set to house and deliver training in modern techniques to apprentices and students, working with cutting-edge digital facilities such as modern saw technology, data scanning and computer aided design (CAD).

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The cathedral’s director of works and precinct and the programme lead for the York Minster Precinct Neighbourhood Plan, Alex McCallion, said: “The centre of excellence will give the works department the facilities needed to thrive and to become an international centre for heritage craft skill and heritage estate management.

“We will work in partnership with other institutions, not least the University of York and York Council, to continue to build the city’s profile as a world class leader in the care of heritage assets.

“Importantly for York Minster, this critical programme of activity is essential if we are to secure the long-term environmental, financial and heritage sustainability of York Minster for future generations to enjoy as we do today.”

The vision for the centre of excellence is a key element of the York Minster Precinct Neighbourhood Plan, which is being examined by the Planning Inspectorate.

Existing buildings within the Minster’s precinct will be renovated for the new campus, which is due to include a works and technology hub earmarked for the current stoneyard on Deansgate. A drawing office will also be developed with up-to-date IT and digital technology.

The Heritage Quad is set to be a new structure, which will replace the mason’s workshop located in the Stoneyard, and will be designed to sit sympathetically alongside the city walls and the Minster’s gardens.

Former garages at the rear of the Deanery will be renovated to provide new facilities for the Minster’s scaffolders and gardeners. The development will include dedicated residential accommodation for the Minster’s first and second year apprentices and for exchange visitors and trainees.

A key element of the project will be the resurfacing of the 1970s cobbled road to improve access to the Minster.

The Dean of York, Dr Jonathan Frost, said: “With the generous support of the York Minster Fund, we are aiming to create a world leading facility where ancient heritage craft skills can flourish alongside the latest technology and innovation in the field.

The Chapter of York, the Minster’s governing body, has joined forces with businesses and residents in the city to develop a blueprint to shape the future of the ancient cathedral.

The York Minster Neighbourhood Forum is overseeing the plans, which include a vision for the precinct surrounding the Minster. Once the proposals are adopted, they will form part of the

Development Plan for the whole city, in the first scheme of its kind for an English cathedral.

The current Minster, which is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, took about 250 years to build and was completed in 1472.

A public consultation on the proposed centre of excellence was launched yesterday and will run until November 2.