University Church of St Mary the Virgin reopens

Visitors will now be able to get access to the spire and bell tower

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Oxford's 13th Century University Church of St Mary the Virgin has reopened following a £5.5m restoration.

The medieval building - which boasts Oxford's tallest spire - has undergone its biggest renovation since the late 19th Century in a two-year project.

Works included cleaning stonework, restoring the Clore Old Library, chancel and nave including 15th Century stalls, and improving access.

The church, which attracts 300,000 annual visitors, reopened earlier.

'Rich heritage'

The Reverend Canon Brian Mountford was joined by the Duke of Gloucester and chancellor of Oxford University Lord Patten to celebrate the completion of works at the church, which was the original site of the university.

He said: "We are delighted with the results of this restoration project and we hope our congregation and hundreds of thousands of annual visitors will be just as pleased with the church."

The event also marked the launch of an educational project celebrating the history of the church and a schools programme.

Stuart McLeod, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East, which helped fund the programme, said: "This church holds a special place in the heart of historic Oxford.

"The Grade I listing and the 300,000 annual visitors - nearly twice the number of the city's population - are testament to its rich heritage."

Clore Duffield Foundation, the University of Oxford and Parish Church Council have also helped fund the works, which also include refurbishing the shop, conserving the tower and restoring rooms adjacent to the Clore Old Library to provide a public space for community events.

The restoration project at the church, which stands in the centre of the old walled city, was led by the University Church Development team and Caroe Architecture.

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