Minster status could mean tourist boom for church
OBTAINING minster status could double the number of visitors to Cheltenham's oldest building.
That is the view of Dr Tudor Griffiths, the rector of St Mary's Church in the centre of the town.
He is optimistic that the status, which is likely to be secured early next year, will lead to many more people going through its doors. At the moment, about 7,000 people visit each year.
He said: "I think it's likely to double the number of visitors. Having minster status will highlight that it's a building of importance."
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
Minster status applies to certain ancient churches, such as those in York and Beverley.
But in recent years, it has also been awarded in various sizeable towns which have a significant church, but no cathedral.
Sunderland, Halifax, Doncaster, Plymouth and Croydon are all places where minster status has been awarded to its churches.
It has no direct bearing on whether a town might also acquire city status.
Dr Griffiths added: "It's a new way of recognising a church of some significance. It's entirely in the bishop's gift."
In St Mary's case, the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev Michael Perham, is due to attend a special service in February to designate its new status.
He has set up a working group to look into the matter and to consult the parish, the wider church community and Cheltenham Borough Council.
Dr Griffiths, who is secretary of the working group, said: "All the feedback so far has been positive. In fact, the council has leant us the services of Ken Dale, its projects manager, to help us."
Having minster status would not change the physical structure of the grade one-listed church, which dates from the 13th and 14th centuries.
But, coincidentally, its bosses are three-quarters of the way through carrying out a revamp.
Among other things, they are clearing space, providing toilets and creating a discreet refreshments' area.
It forms part of the church's overall plan to raise its profile.
Working with the borough council, it hopes to make the building more visible and accessible.
The intention is that this will enable more people to see it and become aware of its historical significance and also reduce the amount of vandalism in and around the enclosed churchyard.