Saxon past is pure gold for church
A CHURCH is hoping to tap into Stoke-on-Trent's growing Saxon scene by attracting more sightseers.
Stoke Minster has extended its opening hours following the creation of a pilgrimage route passing through the town.
And the church's Saxon heritage should also be a draw for people visiting the delights of the Staffordshire Hoard at Hanley's Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.
Now more volunteers are wanted to help out at Stoke Minster during the week to keep the doors open and welcome the tourists.
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The Welcome Minster project has seen the church extend its opening hours from just one hour a day.
Signs are also set to be installed directing walkers from the newly-created Two Saints Way – which links Chester Cathedral and Lichfield Cathedral – to the church.
Longer-term plans include creating a cafe and toilets in a leisure section of the church.
The Reverend Marg Hardcastle said: "The catalyst for this project has been the long-distance footpath.
"Added to this is the excellent new display for the Staffordshire Hoard at the Potteries museum and the Saxon-era links with the church which we hope will attract visitors to Stoke. We aim to achieve an improved visitor offer in the short to medium term through being open to the public for longer hours, offering light refreshments and appropriate visitor information."
Stoke Minster was founded in the 7th century as a holy place on the River Trent and is regarded as the birth place of Stoke-on-Trent.
Although the church was rebuilt in 1826 it still boasts its Anglo-Saxon font and carved stone preaching cross.
Thanks to the efforts of 11 volunteers, the church is currently open from midday to 3pm Wednesday to Saturday.
Volunteer co-ordinator Wendy Daw, of Barlaston, said: "The idea is that we are trying to keep the Minster open for as long as we can. The walk is very picturesque and we hope that by opening the church more often that it will encourage more people to come in. It doesn't look great if people get into Stoke and the doors are shut on the Minster."
Retired Wedgwood worker Mrs Daw, aged, 68, said: "We would like more volunteers and want to hear particularly from people who have an interest in seeing the Minster open to visitors.
"Sharing the heritage of the building within the context of the city, and offering a quiet reflective space to visitors is very important. We would like to be part of Stoke town centre and for people to feel welcome and get involved.
"The Minster offers a lot of historical features and we think the project will help to breathe some life back into it."
The church is also the burial place of many of the city's great manufacturers, with memorials to the Spode family and Josiah Wedgwood.
The church was redesignated as a Minster in 2005 because despite being a city Stoke-on-Trent does not have a cathedral.
For more information about volunteering, email email@example.com.