A PROJECT that has been almost ten years in the making and has seen close to £18million spent on it will finally see priceless Winchester artefacts opened to the public next week.

On Tuesday, Winchester Cathedral will launch its ‘Kings and Scribes – The Birth of a Nation’ exhibition, unlocking the treasures and stories of the cathedral’s past and its role in shaping early English history.

The project, which has been in development for eight years after more than a year of planning, has been made possible thanks to a £11.2m National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, as well as donations.

Annabelle Boyes, receiver general and canon treasurer at the cathedral, said: “Kings and Scribes – The Birth of a Nation will play a vital role in building a more sustainable future for the cathedral.”

Thanking those who had helped fund the project, she added visitor numbers are expected to grow from 300,000 a year to 500,000 thanks to the exhibition.

Dean of Winchester the Very Rev Catherine Ogle said: “We’re really proud of how we have done this. It has been thrilling.”

Among the artefacts from the 1,000 years in the exhibition will be the Winchester Bible, which a cathedral spokesman is the “largest and finest of all surviving 12th-century English bibles, renowned for its sheer size, rarity and astonishing artistry”.

A major addition will be the secrets gleaned from the cathedral’s unique mortuary chests, thought to contain the remains of pre-Conquest kings and bishops.

For many years, the contents of the six mortuary chests has been a subject of speculation.

The conservation of the mortuary chests, which began in 2012, provided an opportunity for the first scientific analysis of the bones, which have been mixed over the centuries.

Working in the Lady Chapel at Winchester Cathedral, which was used as a temporary laboratory, the researched assembled more than 1,300 bones. At least 23 partial skeletons have been reconstructed, even though the chests were only thought to contain the remains of no more than 15 people.

Professor Kate Robson Brown, a professor of biological anthropology at the University of Bristol who worked on the remains, said: “What we think is possible is different people are going in, some material is lost in the process.

“The bones that are remaining are in really good condition.”

Dr Heidi Dawson-Hobbis, a lecturer in biological anthropology at Winchester University, added the process of identifying the remains included a number of methods, but it was a case of matching the bones in front of them against the people known to be inside the chests.

Among the other treasures going on display will be the Morley Library, which was bequeathed to the cathedral by Bishop George Morley in 1684. It contains more than over 2,000 books, the earliest dating back to 1501.

Commenting on the accessibility of the exhibition, archaeology consultant Dr John Crook said: “It’s a remarkable achievement.”