Cirencester students breathe life into ‘lost’ Medieval Monastery
[image Dan, Tom , ceramicist Russell Paige, and Helen with medieval inspired heads]
Students from Cirencester College became medieval detectives for a week recently when they joined forces with the town’s Corinium Museum to explore the ‘lost’ Abbey of St. Mary, a local Augustinian monastery dating back to the 12th century. The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund Young Roots programme, which encourages young people to delve into their local heritage, and the artwork arising from the team’s findings will be showcased at an exhibition in the Museum beginning on Friday 9 March..
To uncover the origins of the Abbey, the Cirencester College ‘sleuths’ began by examining and sketching related objects and architecture from the Museum collections to help build up a picture of how the building would have appeared. They were assisted by artist Jane Johnson, who encouraged them to draw inspiration from the work of medieval artist Leonardo Da Vinci.
Having got to grips with the look of the Abbey, the group then visited the grounds where it had stood to learn more about its history and how the site relates to the wider local heritage picture. They were accompanied by Mayor of Cirencester, Andy Lichnowski; members of the Friends of the Abbey Grounds group; land management officer Martin Conyers; Hannah Sturman consultant for Cirencester’s Green Spaces Strategy; and Emma Stuart from the Corinium Museum. This ‘field trip’ brought the whole project to life and sparked lots of ideas about the future regeneration of the site.
Finally, the students turned their attention to the inhabitants of the monastery by exploring human remains dating from medieval times which are in the Museum’s collections. They were particularly interested in facial reconstruction techniques employed in archaeology and museums, and this prompted them to create their own medieval style head with the assistance of Russell Paige, a ceramicist at New Brewery Arts.
Emma Stuart, Learning Development Officer at the Museum said: “The students all say that this has been a really valuable experience. They have learned some important information about their heritage by doing some in-depth research and local consultation, and the practical workshops have also helped them develop a variety of new skills. Overall, this type of activity teaches young people how to appreciate the historic nature of the environment and museum collections generally, and I would like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for making it all possible.”
The artwork produced by the team will be on display, alongside works by students from Deer Park School and The Cotswold School, at a free exhibition entitled ‘Modelling the Monastery’ which opens on Friday 9 March 2012 at the Corinium Museum.
More photographs of the project are available from CDC on request (see contact details below.)
Cirencester’s Augustinian Abbey was virtually destroyed in 1539 by Henry VIII, but excavations of the grounds took place in the 1960s and the Corinium Museum’s medieval gallery houses the archaeological and architectural works which were recovered from the site at that time.
Cotswold District Council, Trinity Road, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 1PX
Tel: 01285 623 169