What better place to inspire than the historical Monastery in Gorton, built brick by brick between 1863 and 1872 by Franciscan monks who had come to Manchester in 1861 to serve the local Catholic community, it really is impressive. Designed by Edward Pugin, whose father helped design the houses of Parliament, Gorton Monastery is considered one of his finest masterpieces.
It was put on the World Monuments Fund Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World in 1997, alongside Pompeii, Macchu Picchu, The Valley of the Kings and the Taj Mahal. This was a milestone that led to the Monastery being recognised internationally for its architectural and spiritual significance and gave rise to the nickname of "Manchester's Taj Mahal". The Monastery is Grade II* listed and in the top 8% of buildings in England.
Following its decline when the Franciscan monks left in 1989 and a proposed development programme fell through, the Monastery has been restored from ruin thanks to funding of £6.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, the Architectural Heritage Fund, North West Development Agency and the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund).
A meeting in early October 2009 with Elaine Griffiths, Chief Executive of the Monastery and its trust, secured the venue for the day.