I was invited on a guided tour of the new Visitor and Education Centre at the stunning Shrine of St Augustine’s Ramsgate.  The new centre is opening in May 2017 during the annual St Augustine Week, which is a celebration of the birth of Christianity in this country, following St Augustine landing in Thanet.

With support from the Heritage Lottery fund, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, the Friends of St Augustine’s and members of the local community this restoration costing £1.2 million has been beautifully done.

All the restoration work has been beautifully, carefully and sympathetically done. For example, where small repairs have been required, a new door made or even a complete new piece of furniture it has all been done in the Pugin style, therefore you struggle to see what is old and what is new. Obviously, there are some new editions by way of glass doors and panelling and hi tech gadgets, but they don’t look out of place at all.

The visitor centre has been built in an existing Pugin building, as you enter the schoolroom there are bright information panels to the side showing information about St Augustine and Pugin, with children’s interaction points at their height. A video showing the beauty of this place is projected onto the wall, with another projector available for special showings of films and information. To the other side is a huge statue of St Augustine that has its own unique story, a perfect place for a selfie.

Through beautiful new glass doors out of the schoolroom into the Cloister flanked by amazing stain glass windows some dating back hundreds of years. A museum area ready to display many beautiful objects, bringing some back to their rightful home.

Upstairs is the meeting room and library with new bookcases specially made for that room, exact replicas of the bookcases in Pugins own home (The Grange next door), I was very pleased with myself for noticing this.

Hidden behind old wooden doors are state of the art toilet’s and kitchens and the whole place is bathed in stunning new lighting, it is all very clever.

Here is a place where you can really see and feel history coming alive.

I couldn’t go into the Abbey as building work was still going on, however what I did see enables me to say that an amazing job has been done by all involved and I highly recommend anyone to pay them a visit.

Claire Turner