A building widely considered to be one of Manchester’s most architecturally significant buildings has opened to the public as a visitor attraction.
The magnificent Grade II listed Gorton Monastery is open every day except Saturdays, when it is often booked for weddings.
Visitors can find out more about the intriguing story of this fascinating building once nicknamed Manchester’s Taj Mahal because it was one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world.
The Monastery offers a unique visitor experience as well as a comprehensive learning and activities programme alongside the conference and hospitality business.
A new permanent exhibition features the story of Gorton Monastery from its Franciscan past as well as a special local history section on Belle Vue and Gorton, known as the ‘Workshop of the World’.
Heritage talks and viewings of rarely seen archive films will take place in the Heritage Corner. The new Monastery shop will sell a wide variety of gifts, cards, souvenirs and books.
The refurbished Victorian Pantry is located in the old friary. Open from 11am for morning coffee, delicious lunches and traditional afternoon teas, all produce is home cooked, freshly made and uses locally sourced produce.
Also, additional rooms in the Heritage Corner have been created by converting the friary basements into community arts, health, well-being, family learning, play and creative spaces.
All this has been made possible thanks to the construction of the new £3m Welcome Wing which has created additional flexible space for community, arts, health, well-being and learning activities.
Edward Pugin, one of the leading architects of the day whose father Augustus was the architect for the Houses of Parliament, was commissioned by the Franciscans to design and build the imposing church and friary on Gorton Lane in 1863.
The Franciscans left the site in 1989 and the buildings were finally handed over to the care of the Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust in 1996 after 7 years of neglect and a failed attempt by a developer to convert the buildings into apartments.
The £6.5 million restoration was funded by major grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, European Regional Development Fund, English Heritage, and private donations.
Elaine Griffiths, chief executive of the Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust said: “I think today marks the most important day in the project’s 21-year history, as we are now able to deliver our long held dream to open ‘Every Day for Everyone’ and put the Monastery back at the heart of the local community. Thanks to all our new facilities, we can now open to visitors and run community projects, as well as operating as an award-winning conference and events venue.
“We look forward to welcoming everyone through the doors to see this wonderful building, visit the Heritage Corner, The Victorian Pantry and new Monastery shop. Gorton may not be an obvious stop on the tourist trail, but the Monastery has such a fascinating story to tell, and is of such great significant historically and architecturally, that it’s well worth a tour and makes a fantastic day out for people of all ages.”
Gorton Monastery is open every day except Saturdays from 11am – 4pm. Entrance is £3 for adults, £2 for concessions, £1 for students and £5 for families of up to four people. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this precious site. The entrance fee includes parking.
The Monastery is usually open free of charge to visitors on most Sundays and the third Monday of the month, 12 – 4pm.