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Birkenhead Priory funding plans to improve visitor experience

The medieval Undercroft at Birkenhead Priory is set to be revamped as part of plans to improve the visitor experience at the historic Wirral site.

More than £350,000 has been earmarked from Town Deal grants to carry out the work at the 870-year-old site – the oldest building still standing in the city region.

The Undercroft dates back to the 14th Century and features an intact, vaulted stone ceiling.

Improvements will include the reinterpretation of displays to exhibit more artefacts charting the former monastery’s history, some using state-of-the-art museum equipment and technologies.

Visitors will be able to get an improved view of the historic floor, with a new system installed to protect it from harm, while there are also proposals to improve access to the Refectory space above with the installation of a platform lift.

Other improvements to the wider site include repairs to the historic Chapter House chapel and the installation of a new landmark lighting system on the tower of grade II listed St Mary’s Church, the only remains of the church which occupied the site between 1819 and 1977.

The Benedictine priory was founded in around 1150 by Hamo de Massey of Dunham Massey, and owned lands in what is now Birkenhead. King Edward I visited in 1275, and again in 1277.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th Century, the estate passed into the hands of Ralph Worsley of Lancashire and most of the buildings fell into disrepair and ruin. During the English Civil War it was occupied and fortified by the Royalists.

In 1896 an appeal was launched to save the site, with the first phase of restoration taking place two years later and a second phase between 1913-19 when the Chapter House was dedicated as a chapel.

In 1979, the Priory became a Scheduled Monument and in 1988 a museum was opened in the restored Undercroft.

The Government's Towns Fund programme aims to regenerate towns and deliver long-term economic and productivity growth through investments in urban regeneration, digital and physical connectivity, skills, heritage and enterprise structure.

Birkenhead could see up to £25m invested through Town Deal funding.

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