Nottingham-based Focus Consultants is celebrating the news that a key heritage project in Nottinghamshire has been awarded a £1.9 million National Lottery Heritage Fund grant.

The company is project managing the Leaves of Southwell project – a scheme to protect, interpret and better present the late 13th Century stone carvings of plants, animals and green men that decorate the Chapter House at Southwell Minster.

The carvings are regarded as the finest example of 13th Century naturalistic carving in the UK and have long been a source of inspiration to artists and writers. The project aims to enable more people to visit and enjoy the Leaves, the Minster and its environs, and to secure the fabric of the building.

“News of the £1.9 million National Lottery Heritage Fund grant for the Leaves of Southwell project is fantastic,” said Steven Fletcher, a partner at Focus Consultants, which also has branches in Newark, Leicester, Boston and London.

“Focus Consultants has worked on many heritage projects across the UK, but we are delighted to be project managing this very important scheme at Nottinghamshire’s cathedral which is so close to home.”

The wide-ranging scheme includes the renewal of the main east roof and the stabilisation of the Chapter House environment to preserve the stonework. Lighting of the Chapter House will be introduced for the first time together with under floor heating. Accessibility is at the heart of the project and a cantilever lifting platform will help visitors with mobility issues into the passageway leading to the Chapter House. Improved external lighting will make the western paths and main north porch much more useable and welcoming in dark or inclement weather.

Updated publications will offer new interpretations of the Leaves and the Minster. The Education Garden, which already offers a place of health and wellbeing, will be doubled in size enabling the growth of the plant species seen in the Chapter House. This will build on the success of a previous collaboration with The National Lottery Heritage Fund and, in addition, an outdoor classroom will be a focus for education activities.

The Dean of Southwell, the Very Revd Nicola Sullivan said: “This is a thrilling opportunity for us to engage with new and diverse audiences – including National Lottery players who have made this grant possible. Southwell Minster is Nottinghamshire’s cathedral and its most loved building. It is a wonderful educational resource to visitors from far and near.”

The Canon Chancellor, Nigel Coates, who leads the project, notes that: “The Leaves of Southwell are hugely significant as part of our artistic heritage but also have so much to teach us about the need to treasure the natural world. The project will ensure future generations continue to be inspired by the Leaves of Southwell.”

Anne Jenkins, Director, England: Midlands & East, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The Leaves of Southwell are undeniably fine examples of 13th century carvings, and thanks to National Lottery players they will be seen by wider and more diverse audiences. We are delighted that inclusion is at the heart of this project and invaluable training will be provided for staff at Southwell Minster to ensure that everyone feels welcome and has the best experience when they visit.”

Focus Consultants offers a range of project management support and has worked on arts and heritage projects across the UK at museums, historic homes and ecclesiastical buildings.

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