Set within an archaeologically sensitive site in St Albans Cathedral’s Sumpter Yard, a new Welcome Centre, designed by conservation architect Simpson & Brown and built by contractor Thomas Sinden, creates a new visitor entrance, retail space, interpretation and exhibition areas, houses the relocated vestry, and provides new level access to the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban.
Alterations to the Chapter House interiors were also undertaken in order to renovate the existing cafe, provide additional education spaces, and improve accessibility at all levels through the creation of new lift access and washroom facilities.
The cathedral was built on the burial site of Alban, Britain’s first Christian martyr. The ancient structure is thought to be Britain’s first Christian shrine and the country’s longest serving centre of Christian worship. During a dig to explore the foundations of the Welcome Centre site, the archaeologists discovered the remains of Abbot John of Wheathampstead with three papal bulls, issued by Pope Martin V, all dating from the fifteenth century
The new building slots into the constricted space between the great mass of the historic cathedral and William Whitfield’s Chapter House.
The centre’s architecture is intended to be respectfully understated – taking its design lead from the historic boundary wall that once enclosed the monks’ graveyard on the site.