THE iconic Birkenhead Priory is to be transformed into a multi-purpose community space thanks to a Heritage Lottery grant.

The £393,100 will be used to conserve the north and west range Priory buildings and complete other restoration works in order to remove the Priory from the Heritage At Risk register.

It will also help create interactive activities for visitors and a digital learning pack for schools and a public performance programme based on the Priory's heritage.

The museum will also be revamped.

The Priory – Merseyside's oldest building – re-opened in April following a major refurbishment project costing £750,000.

It is a scheduled Ancient Monument and includes a range of Grade 1 listed structures.

The site includes St Mary's Tower which is what remains of the first parish church of Birkenhead.

Sara Hilton, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: "Birkenhead Priory is such a beautiful building and stands as an impressive reminder of the town’s historic beginnings, providing a place of tranquillity amongst the hustle and bustle of 21st-century life.

"The grant will not only mean the building will no longer be 'at risk' but will also place it firmly back at the heart of the community.

"Local people will be able to, for the first time in many years, truly understand the Priory’s local and international significance and benefit from a variety of exciting events and activities.

"We at HLF are confident that, once completed, Birkenhead Priory will once again be a thriving place that local people will be proud of."

Cllr Chris Meaden, Wirral Council cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: "This is really fantastic news. Birkenhead Priory is one of the most iconic and important buildings in the borough.

"Following on from the renovation work that has already been carried out, this Heritage Lottery funding will enable us to continue efforts to return the Priory to the forefront of people’s consciousness, bring more visitors to the site and improve their experience and understanding while they are there."

Birkenhead MP Frank Field said: "It is appropriate that the oldest building in Merseyside should be supported by the HLF and the grant will help to rebalance the cultural pull of both sides of the river."

Birkenhead Priory dates back to 1150 when it was founded as a small monastery for Benedictine Monks and is one of only four surviving Benedictine sites in the North West.

Opened in 1822 and closed in the 1970s due to population changes and dilapidation, the tower is Grade II listed and gives unrivalled views of Birkenhead and over the River Mersey to Liverpool.