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Worcester Cathedral Undercroft Project

One of Worcester’s most historic underground spaces is being given a new lease of life. The Undercroft was built by the monks of Worcester Cathedral and after extensive building work is about to re-open as a learning space. Daniel Parnell is Director of Education and Community Involvement at the Cathedral and tells us more.

What’s the building’s history?

The Undercroft was built 800 years ago. It’s the space beneath College Hall which today is used by King’s School, but in the days when the cathedral had a monastery it served as a refectory for the monks. From its origins as a cellar, it’s been through other uses including a common room for the school and a space for flower arrangers. It’s a beautiful space with a vaulted ceiling supported by stout columns, but until recently it was rather neglected.

When did the current work begin?

In 2017 plans were drawn up to breathe new life into the Undercroft, creating a space that could be used for learning by the whole community. Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund as well as other grant bodies and donors, we managed to raise enough money to start work last year.

The challenges of working on such an old building are many. Perhaps the biggest was to make the space accessible, as when we began it could only be entered via steep staircases. Thankfully the Victorians had already created a vault by making a hole in the ceiling and so we could use this as a space to add a better staircase and a lift. 

The floor was very uneven and that has been levelled throughout. The stonework has been left pretty much as we found it, if anything has been rebuilt we have re-used original stone as far as possible.

The work has been overseen by specialist architects and carried out by experts in historic building renovation. The site manager originally trained as A stonemason here at the Cathedral. 

When will the building open?

The Undercroft should be ready by mid-October. The space has been divided into a large and flexible education space, a seminar room, and a third, smaller meeting room. We hope that the Undercroft Learning Centre can continue the tradition of learning at the Cathedral where people of all ages and backgrounds, particularly those who may feel the Cathedral has nothing to teach them, can come and learn together.

Because of the current pandemic we can’t hold a large celebration to mark its re-opening, but for now we will be able to host small numbers of visitors from community, education and business groups.

We hope to have a bigger launch next year, allowing more people to come and see it for themselves. For further information, please visit our website or follow us on social media. 

Twitter & Facebook: @WorcUndercroft
Instagram: @undercroftlearningcentre