Milton Abbey Thrilled With Restoration Grant

by Gerry Lynch last modified 15 Dec, 2014 08:22 PM

Abbey landscape is so beautiful that legendary gardener Capability Brown called it "the Great Stare"

The Diocese of Salisbury has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for 'The Great Stare' project at Milton Abbey, it was announced today. Support has also been received from Viridor Credits.

The project aims to restore the Abbey, revitalise its internationally significant Capability Brown landscape surroundings, reveal the rich history of the site, provide visitor facilities, and provide activities and events which will involve visitors and volunteers.

Development funding of £105,000 has been awarded by HLF to help a partnership of the Forestry Commission, Milton Abbey School and the Diocese of Salisbury, under the leadership of the Diocese, to progress its plans to apply for a full grant of £760,000 in due course towards the estimated overall project cost of just over £1m. A grant of up to £240,000 has been offered by Viridor Credits towards the repair and conservation element of the Abbey church.

The project receives its name from the lips of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, the renowned landscape artist who created more than 170 gardens and parks surrounding some of the finest country houses and estates in the country – including Milton Abbey. He referred to his dramatic flight of steps between the Abbey and St Catherine's Chapel as 'The Great Stair'. Subsequently, he was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the Milton landscape that he called the whole site 'The Great Stare'.

The project aims to carry out essential repair and conservation work to the Abbey church, complete the first phase of restoration of the historic landscape and develop a long-term strategic plan for its future.

The project will also see new visitor facilities, a visitor car park, improved access and signage and interpretation work in St Catherine’s Chapel.

Another focus of the project is the development of an on-going programme of exhibitions, events and activities for visitors, schools and volunteers. The work opens up an exciting new chapter in the 1,000 year story of the Abbey.

Michael Wood's BBC Four series on King Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons brought Milton Abbey and St Catherine's Chapel at Milton Abbas into the forefront of public consciousness as witnessing the origins of the English kingdom and the English language. The site is not just a magnificent collection of Grade I Listed buildings, a Registered Historic Park, Scheduled Monument and Conservation area – it is an extraordinary landmark defined by its unique setting, its history, and the lives of the people associated with it (King Athelstan, King John, the Benedictine abbots, 'Capability' Brown, Augustus Pugin and Thomas Hardy among them).

The startling view of the site from the Hilton approach is one of the finest in Dorset; that from the Chapel down into the valley towards the Abbey is like looking into the cradle of England.

In the last 60 years alone, thousands of people have delighted in Milton Abbey church – students, worshippers, local people, dignitaries, musicians, scholars and visitors from all over the world. Almost all have been stunned by the breathtaking setting of the church, its iridescent honey-coloured interior, and its quiet spiritual atmosphere. As we move towards the celebration in 2016 of 300 years since the birth of 'Capability' Brown, the landscape surrounding Milton will become increasingly important. This landscape is recognised as one of the ten finest produced by Brown anywhere in England.

Bishop Nicholas commented, “This is an inspiring project to mark an important anniversary. Much more significant is its potential to create a long-term sustainable renewed life for one of the most exquisite and significant places in England.”

John Lockwood, CEO of Viridor Credits, said, “Milton Abbey is among the most important heritage projects that Viridor Credits has funded. There are few places that match it for national importance, history and beauty, and I am pleased that Viridor Credits is able to support the efforts of the Diocese to restore this remarkable place.”

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