On 1 October, we celebrated the culmination of the Great St Mary’s Heritage Project with an Elizabethan party and official opening ceremony.
Some of our wonderful Tudor volunteers, who whetted our appetites for the evening’s special guest! Photograph by Richard Patterson, copyright Cambridge News.
Over 160 guests attended the opening, including members of the congregation, the Mayor, High Sheriff and other representatives of the civic community, and staff from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which generously supported our project.
The Lord Lieutenant, John Binns and the Mayor mingle with the Tudors. Photograph by Richard Patterson, copyright Cambridge News.
After time to mingle and explore the rich content on the new interactive touchscreens, the guests took their seats as singers from Michaelhouse Chorale performed two rousing sixteenth-century songs, including an impressive solo in the Boar’s Head Carol.
Margaret and John, the masterminds behind the Heritage Project from the beginning. Photograph by Historyworks.
Pog eagerly awaiting the Queen… Photograph by Historyworks.
A group of talented drama students from Arbury Primary School and Chesterton Community College then wowed us all with a dramatic taste of Cambridge history, complete with kazoo fanfare.
The talented actors from Keystage Arts and Heritage giving King John his kazoo fanfare. Photograph by Oliver Cross.
As the children reached 1564 in their timeline, the evening’s surprise guest appeared in the chancel.
Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth I had returned to Great St Mary’s, 451 years after her first visit to the church. Her Majesty was gratified to find the Lord Lieutenant here to greet her, and rewarded the child actors with gold coins before making a short speech.
Rachel Duffield as HRH Queen Elizabeth I was delighted to be greeted by her representative, the Lord Lieutenant. Photograph by Oliver Cross.
After speeches from John Binns, Rosie Sharkey, and Philip Rothwell of the HLF, the Lord Lieutenant declared the Heritage Centre open. Six volunteers unfurled royal banners from the galleries, accompanied by an organ fanfare. We then enjoyed the spectacle of Queen Elizabeth and the Lord Lieutenant using the Earl of Leicester’s sword to cut a wonderful cake made by Susan Eady.
So far, 6,800 people have attended family events as part of the Heritage Project, and over 1,700 children from thirteen schools will visit Great St Mary’s by the end of 2015 for history and RE activities.
New visitors flock to the church to enjoy spectacular events such as the Elizabethan pageant, as well as activities like WWI walking tours led by Simon Cross and summer crafts activities during ‘Summer at the Museums’.
Lorena Bushell from the Museum of Archaelogy and Anthropology tries out brass rubbing. Photograph by Richard Patterson, copyright Cambridge News.
The success of the heritage centre has only been possible thanks to a team of fantastic volunteers who have turned their hands to research, crafting and welcoming over the past two years.
Simon Cross, who has clocked up hundreds of volunteering hours researching the WWI memorial. Photograph by Historyworks.
Family explorer packs, activity sheets and brass rubbings have transformed what we can offer for younger visitors, who now feel welcome and enjoy discovering the stories and symbolism in the church.
Dorota, a stalwart heritage volunteer with amazing artistic talents, showing off our family explorer buckets. Photograph by Historyworks.
The touchscreens have been a labour of love and showcase a huge amount of research by volunteers, including many members of the congregation. They have been very popular with visitors since they arrived in August.
Testing out the new touchscreens installed in the nave. Photograph by Oliver Cross.
Margaret and Rosie with the new touchscreens. Photograph by Richard Patterson, copyright Cambridge News.
There is still lots to do – the short film about monarchs connected with Great St Mary’s is still in production, we have started training volunteer tour guides, and we are planning a marketing push with tour companies to increase our visitor numbers and help the Heritage Project to be financially sustainable.
Rosie is always looking for new volunteers who can contribute by welcoming visitors, researching the history of Great St Mary’s or developing new sessions for schools. If you might be able to help, please get in touch with her by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or popping into the office.