Clare: �1.4m priory project getting back on track

BUILDING work on a �1.4million extension to a medieval priory has recommenced, three months after the specialist building firm contracted to do the job went into administration.

The Augustinian Friars, who run Clare Priory in Ashen Road, first came up with an expansion plan for their Catholic church more than 14 years ago, after the 140-strong congregation outgrew the 90-seat building.

But because of the historical significance of the priory, English Heritage could not reach an agreement on what could be done.

In January, the friars finally received the news they had been waiting for – that they could build on the blind side of the old church so it did not detract from the historic value of the building – and work began that month.

Then they were hit with a further setback when the builders Killby & Gayford – a firm with a 152-year history, including the refurbishment of 10 Downing Street – went into administration in April, stalling the project once again.

According to the parish priest and prior, Father Bernard Rolls, a new specialist contractor has now been found and the project is expected to be complete by next Easter.

He said: “It has been a very frustrating time for us because after such a long delay, we finally raised a big part of the funds and even got as far as putting in the foundations in January before it all ground to a halt.

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“We had initially hoped to be in by Christmas but this in not going to happen now, and we have to find an extra �250,000 to cover the new contract.”

More than �800,000 has already been raised via the Augustinian order, a parish covenant scheme, visitors to the priory and the annual craft fair, which is being held in the priory grounds this weekend.

Fr Bernard added: “We usually raise up to �20,000 from the fair and this year it is more important than ever in view of these extra costs that we had not budgeted for with the building delay.”

The church extension will feature Cambridge stone in keeping with the original priory and the entrance will be through the old church, with three arches replacing current windows.

A spokesman for English Heritage said: “We have been involved in the project from the beginning and were very happy to advise and grant all necessary consents for this very interesting, innovative and exciting scheme. It is an excellent example of blending the modern with the old and the overall design enhances the significance of the site.”

The Clare Priory Craft Fair is open from 10am-5pm today and from 11am to 5pm tomorrow.

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