Grade I-listed Kirkstall Abbey’s idyllic 800-year-old remains, beloved of the romantic poets, had fallen into neglect and disrepair and had been designated a monument at risk. Purcell was commissioned to undertake meticulous repairs, create new visitor facilities and fully restore the surrounding landscape to ensure the future of these extensive, beautiful ruins, improving access across the site.
Great care was needed to slow the fabric’s decay without lessening the Abbey’s picturesque quality. The integration of the visitor centre was central to the brief. Another priority was to reinstate stone slate roofs above the nave aisles and transept chapels, where the fine medieval vaulting had proved vulnerable to moisture penetration.
The new visitor centre is a simple, sensitive addition to the historic setting and serves as a focus for the Abbey’s regeneration. The building was created through conversion of the lay brothers’ reredorter to provide display, education and reception areas and WC facilities and is linked to the Abbey via a new timber structure with a stone slate roof and fully glazed elevation. The entire site has benefitted from sensitive, low impact conservation and work to repoint stonework, remove invasive vegetation and improve access.