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Monday, 20 October 2014

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Cumbrian abbey to reopen after being devastated by fire

A 900-year-old abbey which was virtually destroyed by fire eight years ago is aiming to be able welcome the public back inside later this year.

Holme Cultram abbey photo
Naomi Hewitt, left, with administrator Victoria Palmer, at Holme Cultram Abbey

Holme Cultram Abbey, which dates back to 1150, was gutted in an arson attack in 2006. The fire caused the roof to collapse and damaged stained-glass windows.

A £1.6 million programme of repairs has been carried out and work is nearing completion and an exhibition has been set up to introduce visitors to the history of the abbey and its impact on the Solway landscape over time.

Naomi Hewitt, manager of Solway Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme, said: “After a devastating fire in 2006 the abbey is due to reopen later this year after a lengthy restoration. Work on the abbey and cottages is still ongoing, but it is hoped that the exhibition and access work will be complete by April.”

The Cistercian monks of Holme Cultram were skilled in farming, salt-making, milling and international trading.

Panels will also explain the challenges of living on a frontier land and dealing with the impact of Scottish raids. Some of the objects discovered from recent archaeological excavations by the West Cumbria Archaeological Society will be on display.

The information panels have been delivered and Ms Hewitt says she is pleased to get to this stage.

Ms Hewitt said: “It was an exciting day because the main core of the exhibition panels were delivered and installed on-site.

“It was the first time we had seen them away from a computer screen design so it was all very exciting.

“The installation was fairly smooth apart from three panels which were too big to be taken through the door and had to go through the abbey porch which is still undergoing restoration work.”

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