Funding for new heritage venue at Greyfriars in Lincoln

City of Lincoln Council in partnership with Heritage Lincolnshire secures National Lottery support

City of Lincoln Council, in partnership with Heritage Lincolnshire, has received initial support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for the “Re-Imagining Greyfriars: 800 years of stories in the making”.

Made possible by National Lottery players, the project aims to repair the Grade I listed building and bring it back into use as a heritage attraction and venue.

Development funding of £175,000 has been awarded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to help City of Lincoln Council progress its plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant. This is supported by match funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund and Pilgrim Trust.

As well as progressing plans for conserving and repurposing the building, this project will include opportunities for people to engage with, and learn about, Greyfriars, both on site and digitally.

Heritage Lincolnshire will work with both universities in Lincoln, schools, volunteers and other local groups to deliver a programme of research, recording, temporary exhibition, tours, talks and events over the next 12 months. These pilot activities will help the organisation plan what will be done during the next stage of the project and when the work is finished.

Anyone wanting to get involved in the project can contact Heritage Lincolnshire through its website.

Greyfriars may be the oldest surviving Franciscan Church in Western Europe. Just 30 years after Franciscan rule was drawn up by St Francis of Assisi, Franciscans were given their first plot of land in Lincoln which at its height include a range of buildings across the four-acre site. Much of the building as it stands today dates from the late 1230’s.

After monastic properties in Lincoln were surrendered to the crown in 1539, the Greyfriars site was converted to a private dwelling, being turned into a free school a generation later at which point it was also bequeathed to the city. During this phase many of the other buildings on the site were dismantled and additions were made, including the installation of fireplaces to heat the site and glass for upgrading the windows for the school.

The upper floor was used as a free school and then the Lincoln Grammar School continuously until 1900, while the vaulted undercroft had a variety of largely unrelated uses, including storage, a house of correction, a wool factory, jersey school and Mechanics Institute. In the early 20th Century, the building was restored for use as a museum. This occupied the building for almost a century before moving to a purpose-built site nearby in 2004. Since then the building has been empty with occasional use for temporary arts exhibition.

City of Lincoln Council have been working with Heritage Lincolnshire since 2017 to identify a new, viable, use for the building. The partnership will work together throughout this project and Heritage Lincolnshire will run the Greyfriars site once work is complete.

Commenting on the award, Cllr Neil Murray, Portfolio Holder for Economic Growth and Historic Environment Advocate at City of Lincoln Council said: “Greyfriars is a much-loved heritage spot in the city, and to be able to breath new life into this building is great news.

“Over the years, the building has had a number of uses from a school, to most recently a museum.

“We are also looking to gain funding for this important project through the national Town Deal Fund, where we recently submitted our investment plan for £24.75 million.

“We look forward to sharing this important history and restoring the building to its former glory.”

 Greg Pickup, CEO of Heritage Lincolnshire said: “We are very excited to be part of Greyfriars future.

“As the most active building preservation trust in the region we believe that saving this internationally important building, and giving it a new use which utilises cutting edge technology to tell 800 years of stories, will engage a new generation in Lincolnshire’s heritage.”

Dr Kelcey Wilson-Lee, Head of Programmes and Impact at the Architectural Heritage Fund said:

“Greyfriars is a site of exceptional importance in telling the story of Lincoln – through this project, that story will be newly accessible to the local community, inspiring civic pride and preventing the blight of dereliction. The role that Heritage Lincolnshire, an established expert in conserving and adapting historic buildings for reuse, is playing in this partnership showcases the potential for specialist organisations to help towns and cities maximise the potential of their historic assets.”

The development round of this project will cost £268,000 and, if successful in achieving funding, the delivery of the project is estimated to cost £1,720,000.

To keep up to date with this project, check out our Greyfriars Project Page.