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A Centre of Excellence for Heritage Skills and Estate Management for York Minster

12 Oct, 2021

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A project to establish the York Minster Precinct as an internationally recognised Centre of Excellence for heritage craft skills, focused around a campus style facility at York Minster was announced today by the Right Revd Dr Jonathan Frost, Dean of York (the Bishop of Portsmouth designate).

The vision for the Centre of Excellence is a key element of the York Minster Precinct Neighbourhood Plan which is undergoing independent examination by the Planning Inspectorate.

The ambition is to create a world class campus for research, education and training in the ancient craft skills that are vital to the ongoing cycle of repair, restoration and conservation and development of York Minster and other ancient buildings and monuments.

The centre will house and deliver training in modern techniques and processes to apprentices and students, working with cutting edge digital facilities such as modern saw technology, data scanning and computer aided design (CAD).

Existing buildings within the York Minster Precinct will be sustainably reordered, repurposed and renewed to provide new workspace and associated facilities to support the operation of the new Centre of Excellence.  The campus will comprise two main areas:

The Works and Technology Hub will be housed in the current Stoneyard on Deangate which will be reordered to create space to house a state-of-the art 5 Axis CNC saw and a new band saw.  The drawing office will be developed and improved with up-to-date IT and digital technology to support the functionality of the new equipment.  Reordered space for the heritage trades will also be incorporated.  Estates management will focus on the best practice set through the Neighbourhood Plan and associated documents, the first for an English cathedral and heritage estate.  As planned, York Minster will take the lead on sustainable development within a complicated heritage estate.  Our focus on low carbon and renewable technology, will drive and help define exemplary best practice in consultation with City of York Council, Historic England and other key stakeholders.

The Heritage Quad is to be a new, simple structure, which will replace the mason’s workshop currently located in the Stoneyard.  The building will be designed to sit harmoniously with the city walls and the gardens.   Existing old garages at the rear of the Deanery will be repurposed to provide new facilities for the Minster’s scaffolders and gardeners. The structure 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.  The uneven surface has become increasingly hazardous over the years making the area almost inaccessible and forbidding for people with disabilities and mobility impairment. The resurfaced road will help Chapter to meets its commitment to make the York Minster Precinct open and accessible to all.

Dean Jonathan 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. We have already established knowledge sharing and partnerships with the great cathedral cities of Trondheim, Milan, Cologne and Washington through the vision set out in our Neighbourhood Plan.”

Alex McCallion, Director of Works and Precinct and programme lead for the York Minster Precinct Neighbourhood Plan said:

“The Centre of Excellence will give the Works Department the facilities needed to thrive and to become an international Centre of Excellence for heritage craft skill and heritage estate management.  We will work in partnership with other institutions, not least the University of York and City of 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 pre-application public consultation on the proposed Centre of Excellence will open on Tuesday 12 October and will run until 2 November 2021.  To access the consultation go to masterplanning.yorkminster.org  Consultation boards will also be available to view on the railings of the old Minster School from Tuesday 12 October.

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