Transforming our visitor welcome
We are undertaking a major project which will allow us to transform the welcome we offer to our visitors and restore the Abbey to the 1.3 million people who come from around the world each year to enjoy one of the world’s great churches.
A modern welcome on a medieval footprint
A new building will be constructed adjoining the North side of the Abbey to house welcome, ticketing and security facilities, allowing all visitors to follow in the footsteps of kings, queens and royal brides and enter by the Great West Door. Visitor infrastructure will be cleared from the church, freeing more than 10% of the Abbey floorplan for enjoyment by visitors and worshippers, and a number of historic monuments which are currently obscured will once again be visible.
The medieval sacristy
The building will be constructed on the site of the former 13th-century Great Sacristy – built in the 1250s by Henry III during his reconstruction of St Edward the Confessor's Abbey. An integral part of Henry's church, the Sacristy was where the monks kept vestments, altar linens, and other sacred items used in the mass.
Remodelling the sacristy
Following the dissolution of the monastery in 1540, the Great Sacristy was remodelled and repurposed as domestic accommodation. By 1740, the Sacristy house had fallen into a poor state of repair and, along with a range of large houses which by now stood alongside it on the Abbey's North front, it was pulled down. It is the only part of Henry’s church to have been lost.
Uncovering the foundations
The foundations of the original building were discovered during landscaping works in 1869. A dig by Channel 4’s Time Team in 2009 established that the footings were indeed from Henry's building. The medieval walls were found and proved to belong to the missing Sacristy.
The new building has been designed by Ptolemy Dean, the Abbey’s Surveyor of the Fabric (consultant architect), who also designed the award-winning access tower to Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries, which opened in the Abbey’s triforium in 2018.
The single-storey, L-shaped design complements the Gothic architecture of the Abbey, incorporating plain walling, castellation and a series of buttresses. The use of materials including English stone, oak and lead will allow the building to sit discreetly in front of the much larger elevation of the Abbey which towers above it.
Accessible entry for all
The project will also see enhancements made to the landscaping at the Great West Door, including the provision of permanent step-free entry to improve access to the Abbey for all our visitors.