The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will join 150 guests at a special reception on Friday 30 January to celebrate the formal start of works of the restoration of the Close of Hereford Cathedral, supported with a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of just over £4million. It will be the first public visit of The Duchess to Hereford.
The Prince, in his capacity as Patron of Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust, will tour the site with The Duchess, meeting many of those who have been working over the past seven years to develop the project and to secure the funding. Their Royal Highnesses will also have the opportunity to view some of the other projects that the Perpetual Trust has enabled during the past five years of his patronage. They will also meet the cathedral choir, who will perform for the Royal couple.
'We are delighted that Their Royal Highnesses will be joining us,' said Robert Rogers, Chairman of Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust. 'The Prince has been kept closely informed about the Close project as it has developed and it is splendid that both he and The Duchess will be with us to mark its formal start.'
The tour will incorporate several other projects undertaken by the cathedral in recent years including the refurbishment of the Cantilupe Shrine and the new Ethelbert icons. The Prince and The Duchess will be talking to the people working in the stonemasons' yard, where the corbel to mark His Royal Highness's 60th birthday was carved under the Sponsor-a-Stone scheme which raises vital funds for the ancient building.
The event will also be attended by Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). She said: "Hereford is one of the UK's most historic cities, and backdrop to the world-famous Mappa Mundi. The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to be supporting this important restoration programme which will revitalise an iconic building and its immediate surroundings."
The Close project will last up to three years and includes the re-laying of the collapsed drainage system and the upgrade of paths; the defining of boundaries and entrances to delineate the Close as a sacred space separate from the streetscape; improving lighting of the paths and building to extend the use of the space at the end of the day; the incorporation of new seating throughout the site; and an exciting programme of events and interpretation to raise people's understanding of the Close as a former burial ground and as a setting for the cathedral.
'Through the use of local craftsmen and businesses we hope to engage with as many as possible in this project,' said the Dean, Michael Tavinor. 'The Close is a special place and we hope that by the end of the works it will truly be the setting that the cathedral deserves. The project should give a great boost to the city and county. The generosity of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the other donors is hugely appreciated by us all.'
There will be many challenges as the work is undertaken but, together, we are confident that it will give a very special place an appropriate setting,' the Dean added. 'We are delighted that The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will help us celebrate our first step.'