Newport Minster will re-open on Mayday

By Press Release Apr 20, 2024
Rev Steve Sutcliffe and Gemma Torrington in the newly-refurbished minster

Newport Minster will re-open to the public on May 1, after a £2.6m refurbishment project is completed.

The major refurbishment has involved a complete reshaping of the inside of the building, with an underfloor heating system installed, as well as better toilets, a new kitchen, new seating, and new meeting rooms. The idea is that the building becomes a magnet for community groups, as well as a spiritual hub for the island.

Worshippers will welcome up to 400 guests on May 1 for a re-opening service with the Bishop of Portsmouth. It will be the first time the Minster has been properly open to the public since it closed for refurbishment last autumn.

The first community group to use the brand new facilities will be a toddler group that has been faithfully meeting in the nearby parish centre during the refurbishment. The Play Café, with Pitter Patter, has welcomed 65 families since it was launched at the start of 2024. They’ll start meeting in the minster itself from May 7.

The first group to use the refurbished building

The final phase of the project to transform Newport Minster began last September when the building was closed to allow refurbishment to take place. Local companies have installed a new tiled floor, created a new fully-fitted kitchen and meeting rooms near the entrance, and installed display boards to inform its 30,000 visitors each year about its history and activities.

The main worship area includes 300 chairs that can be moved to provide a flexible space for community activities. It means the building can serve as a centre for learning and wellbeing activities, which will be open to groups from across the Isle of Wight. It will also include proper café facilities to serve visitors and guests.

While the refurbishment has been taking place, worshippers have met for regular services in the nearby parish hall. They’ll return to Newport Minster for the re-opening service, which takes place at 5.30pm on Wednesday 1st May.

As well as a sermon by the Rt Rev Jonathan Frost, Bishop of Portsmouth, the service will feature worship led by students from Christ the King College, the joint C of E and Catholic secondary school in Newport. Readings will be given by community leaders, including the Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight Susie Sheldon. Representatives of local schools, community and civic groups have been invited, as well as the local builders and craftspeople who have worked on the building over the past seven months.

Team vicar the Rev Emma Cooksey said: “As a staff team, we’ve been following closely the refurbishment, and are absolutely delighted with the quality of the workmanship, most of which has been by locals. We’re really looking forward to being able to show it off to those from our congregations and communities from May onwards.

“The new facilities will enable us to do what we’ve been aspiring to do for years: to be a thriving hub at the centre of our community. We are looking forward to welcoming the community into the building for exhibitions, concerts, meetings and plays, and to provide excellent facilities for our regular worship services. There are so many people who have worked tirelessly for this to happen, and we look forward to thanking them in this formal way on May 1.”

The refurbishment inside Newport Minster comes after many phases of a project to conserve its exterior, including re-pointing, re-roofing, cleaning the historic stonework and restoration of the monuments. The external work saw the building removed from the Historic England ‘At Risk’ register, which was an important staging post in the preservation of its heritage.

Hannah Griffiths, the minster’s community engagement co-ordinator, who helps to lead the toddler group based at the minster, said: “We’re so excited about moving the Play Cafe into the minster in May. The extra space will be invaluable as we are starting to outgrow the space in the parish hall and the new six-slice toaster will really help with snack time!”