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Priory gets vital crisis funding

Published: 9 October 2020

St Nicholas Priory St Nicholas Priory

Exeter’s oldest building – St Nicholas Priory – has been thrown a financial lifeline to help it through the coronavirus pandemic.

St Nicholas Priory is one of 445 heritage organisations across the country set to receive a grant to help it through these challenging times.

The Priory will receive £42,700 from the Culture Recovery Fund. This money will pay for essential repairs and some development work, but equally importantly, the grant enables Exeter Historic Buildings Trust to retain its part-time staff until the end of March.

A total of 445 organisations will share £103 million to help restart vital reconstruction work and maintenance on cherished heritage sites, keeping venues open and supporting those working in the sector.

The vital funding is from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage and the Heritage Stimulus Fund - funded by Government and administered at arms-length by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Both funds are part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund which is designed to secure the future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues with emergency grants and loans.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “As a nation it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounceback post covid.”

St Nicolas Priory

Professor James Clark, Chair of Exeter Historic Buildings Trust, said:We are grateful to DCMS for recognising the significance of St Nicholas Priory for the city and people of Exeter. This funding will help us to safeguard the building and its valuable heritage, supporting the hard work of our staff and volunteers to ensure it can continue to thrive as a cultural and community hub in these uncertain times.”

St Nicholas Priory, of which only the north and west wings remain, is the oldest building in Exeter. Founded by William the Conqueror in 1087, it was a Benedictine Priory until the Reformation, which saw much of it demolished. The remaining wings had various existences, including life as Tudor merchants’ houses, a school, a nursery and a museum. Exeter Historic Buildings Trust acquired the north wing (the former refectory) in 1996. It received the west wing in 2018 in a community asset transfer from Exeter City Council.

During the lockdown, staff and volunteers worked hard to establish a covid-secure way of working (assisted by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant). It is now open – free of charge – to members of the public every Sunday. It can also be booked for covid-compliant events and tours.

Cllr Amal Ghusain, Lead Councillor for Communities & Culture, said: “I am delighted to learn that Exeter Historic Buildings‘ Trust had been awarded a grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund. This grant will enable essential repairs to St Nicholas Priory to go ahead as well as securing part-time staff jobs till the end of the current financial year. The reopening of this important historic attraction to the public in mid-September is having a positive impact on reviving activities and economic recovery in the locality of Fore Street, in Exeter city centre.”  

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