A HISTORIC Dorset church has been granted £1.2 million to ensure its place in the community for generations to come.

The 14th century Milton Abbey, near Blandford Forum, is currently undergoing a major redevelopment programme led by the newly formed Milton Abbey Heritage Trust (MAHT).

The MAHT – a partnership of the Salisbury Diocese, Milton Abbey School and The Forestry Commission – successfully secured the Heritage Lottery grant to fund vital exterior works alongside community development.

Newly appointed MAHT development manager Brian Larcher said: “At the heart of the Heritage Lottery Fund support is implementation of a parallel approach to renovation of the building whilst establishing a new visitor centre and enabling achievement of sustainable community, social, educational and commercial potential.”

As well as using the funds to repair rain damaged ceilings and floors, last restored in 1865 by Sir Gilbert Scott, Brian is hoping to revitalise the landscape by rediscovering historic walks and viewpoints.

He said: “It is my goal to enable as many people as possible to share in the Abbey Community.

“Recognising the fundamental Benedictine principles on which it was founded, we will design a new Abbey Affiliate structure of Members, Associates and Companions.”

The project will also see improved access to the site, more car parking, new signage and the promotion of the Abbey and St Catherine’s as a venue for a performances and activities.

Brian said: “The Abbey is set like a gem in the stunning Capability Brown landscape and will provide the perfect outdoor venue for music festivals, orchestral music, or jazz performances.

“The idea is, if we are using public money the form of the grant we want to give something back so the Abbey can be enjoyed by all.”

The new programme of events will begin with the Summer Exhibition exploring the landscape, history and heritage of the Abbey which will run from July 7 until August 30.

For more information about the exhibition and redevelopment plans visit the website at miltonabbey.org