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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 June 2007, 22:50 GMT 23:50 UK
Monastery's restoration completed
Interior of Gorton Monastery
The monastery - designed by Pugin - took nine years to build
A Manchester monastery which ranked alongside Pompeii and the Taj Mahal as being one of the world's 100 most endangered sites has been restored.

Renovation work costing 6m has been carried out at Gorton Monastery to repair the Grade II listed building.

Designed by Edward Pugin, the building was put on the World Monuments Fund Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World in 1997.

It will now be used to stage conferences for up to 500 people.

Property developers

The monastery - dubbed the Taj Mahal of Manchester - was built between 1863 and 1872 for Franciscan monks who had come to serve the local Catholic community.

In the 1970s redevelopment of the area led to relocation of much of the population and dwindling church numbers.

By 1989 only six friars remained and the church was closed and sold to property developers.

However, the development scheme was never carried out and the site was abandoned.

Gorton Monastery
The monastery has been turned into a conference venue

In 1996 the Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust was formed and managed to secure a series of grants from a variety of funding institutions to restore the building to its former glory.

The Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Regional Development Fund and English Heritage helped to finance the project together with the North West Regional Development Agency and the Architectural Heritage Fund.

'Hidden treasure'

In February the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the monastery to inspect the restoration work.

Robert Hough, chairman of the urban regeneration company New East Manchester, described the monastery as one of Manchester's hidden treasures.

"It is truly wonderful that Pugin's architectural masterpiece will take its place as one of the city's newest and most inspiring cultural venues," he added.

"The purpose of the trust's charitable project is to maintain this historic site for future generations and to ensure all income generated will provide benefits to other charities and community organisations."

Pugin was a prolific architect, who designed more than 70 churches in England and Scotland.

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