Ahead of its grand opening weekend this Saturday and Sunday, the Chron had a quick look around the newly restored Delapre Abbey.
The director of the Delapre Abbey Preservation Trust, Rachael O’Connor-Boyd, and her team have in recent weeks been working round the clock putting the finishing touches to the all-new visitor attraction.
Following the restoration project, partly-funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant and Northampton Borough Council, around 60 per cent of the previously unseen parts of the abbey will be open to the public.
“They will never have seen as much of it,” said Rachael.
“We wanted to show as much of it as possible.”
Because no one family ever had enough money to fully restore the entire abbey, many parts of it have features dating back to several centuries.
In the service courtyard, for example, you can catch a glimpse of a Victorian stained-glass window as well as a 16th Century square door arch, while above it sit round windows dating to the 18th Century.
This hotchpotch appearance forms part of Delapre’s charm and uniqueness.
The abbey has been split into different zones, each with interactive features. In one part you can sit on a Victorian sofa and hear it gossip about the inhabitants of the abbey. In another you can learn about the Battle of Northampton, which saw King Henry VI captured by the Yorkists.
The restored abbey feels alive because nothing is out of bounds, there are no ropes prohibiting you from accessing different parts of the rooms, you can sit in any chair and touch anything.
If you want to play a game of skittles, you can. Fancy reading a book or an old, recreated copy of the Northampton Mercury while sat on a sofa? You can. You can take a seat at the dining table too if you want, and try on a 15th Century war helmet or make a mock cannonball.
“All of this is about people making their own memories,” said Rachael.
“It’s a space for the people of Northampton.”
But the hope is that visitors from further afield and neighbouring counties will also come and enjoy the abbey, particularly as it’s so close to the M1.
Rachael says the restoration is very much phase one, and part of a wider, bigger picture.
The trust will take on feedback from vistiors to see what people like and don’t like, and this will help shape the future of the site in terms of projects and events hosted there.
Delapre Abbey re-opens this weekend (March 17-18) with a series of events including musket firing, jousting, falconry, axe throwing and more, as well as tours of the abbey.
The trust has organised a park and ride from Edgar Mobbs Way.
Children up to 18 are free, adult admission is £7, while entry to the grounds remains free.