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Improved access to Durham Cathedral on the agenda as lobby works are underway

26 March 2019

Visitors to the Cathedral over the last couple of weeks may have noticed temporary hoarding that has been erected outside of both the North and South doors. This hoarding is the start of extensive lobby works, which are due to be completed by June 2019 to improve accessibility to the Cathedral.

The works are being carried out by Vest Construction, who are following the design of Cathedral Architect Chris Cotton and his team at Purcell.

Glazed lobbies will be constructed inside the North and South doorways, acting almost as large transparent display cases for the medieval stonework, while also creating a clear vantage point through the Church and into the Cloister.  The new lobbies will feature large central doors, allowing for better entry and egress during processions and services.

Chris Cotton, Conservation Architect for Durham Cathedral, said: ‘The interior of the Cathedral is spectacular and my design approach has been to reveal the power of the magnificent architecture through near invisible new lobby structures. In particular we have been working on improving the presentation of the Romanesque arches and original 11th century doors, so that visitors can continue to enjoy some of the most treasured parts of the Cathedral.  Specialised up-lighting is being installed which will reveal the true beauty of the historic carved stonework that the Cathedral’s stonemasons have been carefully conserving, ensuring the craft of this work can be fully enjoyed by all’.

The primary objective of the work is to improve accessibility and visitor welcome to the Cathedral. The doors to the timber doors that were in place previously were heavy, and hard to open. The new doors of the glazed lobbies will be significantly lighter to operate and their transparency will improve visitor welcome, offering a much better first impression of the awe-inspiring building as well as creating an instant sense of openness. The work will help with the free flow of visitors and will bring new found attention to the stunning Romanesque arches which have long been hidden by the heavy timber lobbies. Enhanced disabled access will be another major advantage of the work, with new side pass doors fitted to improve wheelchair and pushchair access.

The improvement of environmental conditions for comfort and conservation purposes is another aim of the work. The inner lobbies will mitigate heat loss, excluding the draft that was previously felt when the old timber doors were in place. The climate control will also create stable environmental conditions for the preservation of the Cathedral’s historic fabric and features.

Tyra Sandford, Property Team Officer at Durham Cathedral said: ‘I think the main benefit of the new glass lobbies is that visitors will get the experience that someone would have had walking through the doors in medieval times. The glass will give the illusion of walking straight through the building and the grandeur of the Cathedral will be instantly visible.’

Visitors to the Cathedral between March and June may notice increased noise levels and changes to the way they usually gain access to the Church and Cloister. The temporary entrance point to the church from the North Side is via the Galilee Chapel and from the Cloisters, through Prior’s Door. Signage is however in place to assist visitors during this transitional period.

The lobby project has been made possible with the generous support of a number of funders: National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Antioch Settlement to the late John Delaney, Friends of Durham Cathedral, Garfield Weston Foundation, Hobson Charity, Sir John Priestman Charity Trust, Fidelity UK Foundation, Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust and Allchurches Trust limited.

Keep an eye out for updates on the progress of the work on Durham Cathedral’s Facebook and Twitter accounts @durhamcathedral, as well as on the news section of the website www.durhamcathedral.co.uk