Westminster Abbey has been granted planning consent by Westminster City Council for a project to improve the welcome it offers to the 1.3 million visitors who come to the Abbey from around the world each year.
A new building will be constructed adjoining the Northside of the Abbey to accommodate welcome, security and ticketing facilities. These services are currently located in the North Transept where they are physically and visually intrusive, making it difficult to appreciate immediately the beauty of the Gothic nave on arrival. Moving them to the new building will allow visitors to follow in the footsteps of Kings, Queens and Royal brides by entering the Abbey by the Great West Door.
The single-storey building will also house chairs and other equipment currently stored within the Abbey, freeing these spaces for enjoyment by visitors and worshippers. In total, around 340m² or 11% of the Abbey’s floorplan will be freed up, and a number of historic monuments which are currently obscured once again be visible.
The new building has been designed by Ptolemy Dean, the Abbey’s Surveyor of the Fabric (consultant architect), who has also designed the award-winning access tower to The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, which opened in the Abbey’s triforium last June. The single-storey 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.
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 its visitors. The cost of the project is estimated to be £11.2m, to be met through a combination of external fundraising and Abbey funds. Archaeological investigations and enabling works will begin in the Autumn, and the new building is expected to be completed in late 2022.
For more information, please visit the Westminster Abbey website.