It wasn’t a typical office lunchtime when I donned a hard hat, his-vis jacket, and steel capped boots to see the final reconstruction work at The Gloucester DeCrypt project, but nevertheless it was an effort worth taking.
I moved to Gloucester around eighteen months ago, so for the entire time I’ve lived in the city the project site on Southgate Street has been closed whilst undergoing an extensive renovation to its grounds. As unfamiliar as I am with local history, it’s hard to walk past The Crypt’s imposing walls and archway, a sharp contrast to the charity shops and high street stores surrounding it, without being filled with a sense of wonder and curiosity about what might be going on inside. In the hopes that other passers-by may feel similarly enchanted, I wanted to blog about my experiences with the project, starting with that all important introduction to the Crypt buildings themselves.
A place of worship and study since Norman times, the church of St Mary de Crypt and the Old Crypt school rooms are full of history which restorers have tried to honour without infringing on any of the necessary modern additions that will reintroduce the buildings as bright and inclusive areas suitable for the 21st Century visitor. The idea of keeping close to tradition as much as possible even can be found in the most utilitarian of spaces – even the walls in the two new toilets in the church use the design pattern of the tiles that paved the church entrance in Victorian times. Underfloor heating and brilliant lighting will add warmth in every sense to the services and concerts yet to be held there.
Although it was still incomplete when I visited, the area I’m most excited about seeing come to fruition is the small landing area between the church and the first floor. It gave a wonderful view of the church floor from above and its beautiful stained glass windows, and I’m sure it’ll be a space fought over for keen heritage photographers in days to come! I’m equally glad the space will be serviced by a lift, so that everyone has the opportunity to view the chapel from above, regardless of their physical mobility, lack of accessibility being an issue which can often be a challenging aspect of older church buildings.
It isn’t long now until the church and school rooms will be open to the public – with a weekend of reopening events beginning on Friday the 23rd of March. Over the next few months I’m hoping to attend some of the concerts and groups being held at the Church and blogging about my experiences, including a run through of the opening weekend festivities which I’ll be writing about in my next post. So, if you’re interested in, or already planning, to hold an event at St Mary De Crypt after its reopening please get in touch via our comments or website www.discoverdecrpt.org.uk and let me know what I should be writing about next!