Seeing the Cathedral in a different light

Joseph discussing with a contractorAnyone who’s been into the Cathedral these last few weeks will have been greeted by quite an unusual sight. The building has been transformed by five large bays of scaffolding, covering the entire Nave and Ante-Chapel, as part of a project encompassing essential conservation work on our historic roof and improvements to the Cathedral Lighting system.

Each day in the Cathedral, there are up to a dozen people, all working on different aspects of the project, which began six weeks ago. From Conservators and Electricians to Structural Engineers, Designers, and Surveyors, the project involves people from seven different companies and sub-contractors, all specialists in their fields.

Joseph Denby, Operations Manager, has been working closely with the contractors as the work unfolds. He says: “I’m really pleased to say that everything is going as planned…in spite of a few inevitable snagging issues, we are making steady progress. Now that the scaffolding is safely in – a major operation in itself, given the sensitivity of the fabric - the detail of the work can really begin.”

Work continues over the coming weeks and months, with the focus now turning to the stripping out of our old lighting system to make way for the new.

The new system will replace our ageing bulbs and spotlights with LEDs, which are far more energy-efficient, much brighter, and less prone to burn-out than the bulbs we currently have. Not only will the new lighting be an improvement visually, but it will reduce our carbon footprint and help to make our Cathedral more environmentally friendly.

The completion of the scaffolding also means that essential surveys can begin on our roof, which is in need of regular care because of its great age.

View from the top of the scaffoldingUnfortunately, during the scaffolding phase, the Cathedral has had to be closed to visitors during the working week as a matter of health and safety. (Worship has continued, meanwhile, with the exception of the mid-week 1pm Eucharist on a Wednesday.)

All being well, we hope to be in a position to re-open to visitors during the working week by the end of February, and re-instate the Wednesday lunchtime service. For now, we have encouraged our habitual attendees to go to St Michael at the North Gate, where there is a similar service at 1.15pm.

Meanwhile, lots of creative work has been going on behind the scenes to re-order the building for worship under these new conditions. As a result, the choir has moved to the East end of the Cathedral and a new temporary pipe organ has been installed on the North side of the Chancel Screen. Chairs, furniture and choreography have been rearranged to accommodate worship in a slightly different shape.

Inevitably, the new arrangements create a different experience of worship for those attending Cathedral services. In a recent sermon, the Sub Dean, Canon Edmund Newey, encouraged the congregation to look on these temporary arrangements as an opportunity.

“If you’re a regular here I recommend using this period of building work to adjust your perception of this place: perhaps seek out a new vantage point and use it to take in the beauty and wonder of this place anew,” he said.

“My new perch in the sanctuary has, for instance, acquainted me with the bust of Dr Pusey in the Chapel of Remembrance. I fear that I’ve scarcely looked at it before, but from where I now sit it is captivating: even the angle of the head bespeaking the holiness of the man.”

All being well, the work will be complete by the early summer, in time for the Ordination services at the end of June.


Photographs by Joseph Denby