A NEW visitor centre which could attract one million people a year has been built in Christ Church Meadow.

Christ Church college received planning permission for the scheme in 2015 but there were delays with contractors for the new building off Broad Walk.

Good progress was made after Oxfordshire-based Beard Construction took over the project and now the centre is almost ready to open.

Oxford Mail:

Christ Church treasurer James Lawrie said there were one million visitors each year to the meadow, with 400,000 of them paying visitors to see inside the college where The Hall was used for Harry Potter films.

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Mr Lawrie added that the visitor centre with thatched roof would feature a shop and ticket office.

A neighbouring 19th century barn has been converted and will include an interpretation space in an old bull pen for material about Christ Church, focusing initially on the meadow, civil war defence, plus facilities for academic research and conference use.

Oxford Mail:

Mr Lawrie said: “The new centre will provide handheld multimedia guides and help visitors to get a much better idea of Christ Church.

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“At the moment we have our shop in the 13th century chapter house, which isn’t ideal - now we will have a purpose-built visitor centre and beautiful shop, which everyone can access without buying a day ticket.

“This will be a big improvement and give us back our chapter house, which we can use for lectures and concerts.”

Oxford Mail:

Mr Lawrie said he hoped the new centre, which will have visitor toilets attached, would open from September.

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The neighbouring 19th century barn will feature interpretation material about the meadow and information detailing Oxford’s role in the English Civil War.

Mr Lawrie added: “Christ Church was a centre for Charles I in the civil war.

“Parliament was held in the hall, and during the building work we uncovered the foundations of a civil war battlement designed to keep out the Roundheads.”

Oxford Mail:

A compound for gardeners, providing storage and changing facilities, has also been built. Mr Lawrie added: “Our gardeners are delighted as they now have better facilities - they are responsible for looking after the meadow which covers about 40 acres.”

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The treasurer added that the visitor centre and associated buildings were a ‘significant investment’.

He said Oxford Preservation Trust was ‘very positive’ about the project, while council planners insisted on the thatched roofs.

Oxford Mail:

Mr Lawrie said: “Christ Church once stopped a ring road going through the meadow - we have always been protective of it.”

A new stone ramp has been built leading to the visitor centre, which will help those in wheelchairs, or mums with pushchairs.

The new buildings are now being fitted out.

Mark Beard, executive chairman of Beard Construction, said: “I hope the new centre functions as well as it looks - it definitely sets off its corner of the meadow splendidly.”

Oxford-based architects Purcell designed the visitor centre.