The Old Deanery opportunity is not just about buying a building, it is about finding a suitable building such as the Old Deanery, or another one, to develop ways for the community to come together to meet the needs of the people of Wells, the Mendip area and its visitors. After the terrible social and economic impact of Covid, this hub would not just be an important new tourist destination, it would also give a huge boost to local businesses, create jobs for local people and provide facilities for vibrant local activities of all kinds. Let’s persuade the world that the Wells area is worth more than a half day stay.
What we have done
When the Old Deanery was first put up for sale, many of us feared we would get a millionaire’s private house or a boutique hotel on the Green and this impressive building and garden would be permanently lost to public use.
What it could be
We hope The Old Deanery will become an art gallery or museum of international standing, with further areas to showcase local work and events. Think what Tate St Ives has done for West Cornwall. We want it to host all kinds of community activities for education, workshops, social meeting and non-profit activities. Think of the central role of the ‘Cheese and Grain’ in Frome’s life.
Another jewel would be the garden filled with plants known in the sixteenth century upon which Dean Turner based his famous New Herball, the first important one in English not Latin, which could be transformed into another major tourist attraction, joining The Newt and other local gardens as a magnet for horticulturalists. There will be a restaurant, cafe and shop which will utilise some of the herbs as well as selling products for health, well-being and cooking. These developments will provide ongoing income streams which will eventually allow us to upgrade our ambitions. Spaces will also be available for hire to external promoters, such as wedding organizisers.
The majority of the initial funding for acquiring the Old Deanery, purchasing the freehold, refurbishing the buildings and setting up the new facilities, will be met by our development partner who plans to recoup some of these costs with some residential development in the courtyard areas. We will fundraise for the rest, using local and national grant bodies. We have already been offered a £20,000 grant from the Charities Aid Foundation and the support of both Arts Council and The Prince’s Foundation in developing these plans. Many local bodies and individuals have also been excited by the project and have written to the Diocese in support. This website contains up to date information.