York Minster Refectory Works Begin

Following extensive restoration works by Chapter of York, the former Minster School site has now been handed over to GEM construction who will convert the Grade II listed building into a refectory-style restaurant with extensive public realm. 

The works will include the creation of a new public park – Minster Gardens.

The joint project between GEM Construction, The Star Group of Restaurants and interior designer Rachel McLane will involve sensitively converting the former song school into a destination restaurant. 

Due to be complete in Q2 2023, the York Minster Refectory will be managed by Bex Toppin and Will Pearce, who both have years of experience working in Michelin star restaurants across the country. Bringing a further 25 years of culinary expertise to the project is joint partner Andrew Pern, proprietor of the recently reopened Star Inn at Harome in North Yorkshire.

The team’s ambition is to create an accessible, welcoming restaurant, providing locally sourced dishes made with the highest-quality ingredients. The Refectory will offer a daytime takeaway element and daytime and evening dining, with plans to also introduce a mix of smaller function and private dining rooms.

The commencement of works closely follows the installation of solar tiles on the Refectory’s roof, marking the first time that solar tiles have been placed on a listed building in the city.

The Refectory project forms part of York Minster’s Neighbourhood Plan, an ambitious masterplan to secure a sustainable future for York Minster, which was recently ratified by City of York Council. Delivery of the Neighbourhood Plan will herald the largest planned programme of works at the Minster and its surrounding Precinct since the 1850s.

Alex McCallion, Director of Works and Precinct at York Minster, said: “We’re really excited that works are underway to enhance the Minster’s visitor offer by sensitively repurposing the former Minster school and creating a new park in the centre of York for everyone to enjoy.

“The Refectory will provide a new dimension to the Precinct and offer our community, local residents and the many visitors to our city an imposing view of the magnificent Minster in a historic setting. Importantly, the Refectory will contribute towards generating income to help us care for York Minster and its Precinct well into the 21st century and support projects like the £11m South Quire Aisle restoration project.”

Mike Green, Chairman of GEM Construction, and joint partner in the venture, added: “We have been proudly delivering quality developments across York for over 20 years and are delighted to be working with our partners to deliver this scheme, which, through its communal, refectory-style dining concept, will pay homage to the building’s former life as a school.

“Each member of the refectory team – Bex, Will, Andrew, Mike and Rachel – have strong connections, not just to York, but to the Minster and the former school itself, so are deeply passionate about this exciting project to further cement York Minster’s reputation as one of the UK’s leading religious and cultural visitor attractions.”

For more information about the York Minster Neighbourhood Plan, visit: https://yorkminster.org/about-us/master-planning/

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