WORK has started on a visionary project that will transform one of Carlisle's most historic buildings into a community resource.

After years of planning and hard work, the Fratry Project - in the grounds of Carlisle Cathedral has begun.

Nestled within the grounds of Carlisle Cathedral, and built as a monastry dining hall in the 1500s, the Fratry building currently houses one of the country's oldest libraries, its ancient books containing centuries of history.

The scheme will see the building extended.

This will include the creation of a pavilion in front of the Fratry, housing a cafe, kitchen, and toilets, with light flooding in through huge arched windows, echoing the architecture of the nearby cathedral.

The library in the Fratry is one of the oldest in the world.

Craig Carruthers, head of visitor services, said: "We are all very excited now that work has started. Things are finally on the go."

It is anticipated that work will take about a year.

Mr Carruthers said: "We would like to be open before Christmas next year but we're not going to rush. It has to be right.

"A lot of exploratory work has gone on but we don't know if the builders will find anything of any significance now that work is ongoing. It is a very important building."

The £3.4m project was made possible by £1.9m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, together with a determined fundraising effort.

"We still need to raise about £100,000," said Mr Carruthers.

"Our fundraising is ongoing. We have had a lot of support from our Friends group and from other grant making organisations."

Once completed, the new extension will open up the Fratry building and its precinct will be become a focus point.

Mr Carruthers said: "We will be able to have more community and cultural events - things which can't be held in the cathedral."

The Priors Kitchen cafe, which was in the Undercroft, has now closed. A new cafe will open as part of the extension but is likely to have a different name.

The Undercroft will be used for educational purposes.

"We hope to be able to attract more schools when we have this dedicated facility," said Mr Carruthers.

The design work has been done by London based Feilden Fowles.