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Ecclesistical & Heritage World No.99

'Common Ground in Sacred Space' - restoration project keeps Newcastle Cathedral at the heart of city life

Exterior view Newcastle Cathedral

Once a guiding light for ships sailing up the River Tyne, this hill-top, metropolitan Cathedral represents, in stone and glass, over seven centuries of Newcastle’s development.

Today, the completed “Common Ground in Sacred Space” project aims to continue Newcastle Cathedral’s place at the heart of modern city life, with renewed purpose to that iconic lantern tower’s ancient role as a beckoning welcome for the city and its people.

Purcell led this landmark restoration and renewal scheme through the series of fundamental changes needed to deliver a civic space fit for the 21st century, with conservation and adaptation of the Grade I listed sacred space informed by expert understanding of the historic and social significance.

The transformed Nave Newcastle Cathedral

"The project took over ten years to plan, develop and execute – almost a generation of dreaming and hard work by so many folks. But we shared a broad and inspiring vision, and the result, we hope you agree, honours this ancient house of worship." - Jane Kennedy, Cathedral Architect

Completing in August 2021, the latter stages of this project played out during months considered challenging by most; the impact of Covid-19 exaggerating the need for collaboration within the multidisciplinary team during the closing stages of this monumental project.

Family Craft Activities Newcastle Cathedral

Levelling the nave floor, installing improved lighting, lifts and similarly fundamental changes have created a sacred space that is equally accessible and adaptable, changes which better enhances the historical significance today and will make the building relevant for many decades to come.

"Purcell has been involved in the largest refurbishment since the works that took place here in 1882, when St Nicholas’ became a cathedral. At its heart, the project has been about creating a sustainable future for our magnificent Cathedral, celebrating its elegance, but also energising its mission to welcome visitors of all faiths and none into our story." - The Very Revd Geoff Miller, Dean Of Newcastle

AV screens Newcastle Cathedral

Over 100 ancient stone ledgers, each weighing over a tonne, have been lifted, restored and re-laid in the Cathedral’s nave aisles. This painstaking reconfiguration moved the most ancient and historically significant away from the main thoroughfare, levelling the uneven floor and minimising trip hazards as well as ensuring each can be better displayed and protected.

Sustainably sourced, underfloor heating was also installed beneath the reconfigured nave floor, removing the costly and inefficient need to heat the entire, echoing space within the Cathedral for visitors. This gentle ‘heat sink’ is powered in part by air sourced heat pumps hidden atop the new Lobby.

New facilities, including a lift, have been introduced with as little impact to the Cathedral fabric and exterior as possible. A converted basement frames modern new amenities, forestalling the need to extend the Cathedral’s footprint, while the new Lobby expands access and sustainable design.

Pre openingJune2021 206 8inch

"It is this combination of contemporary intervention and conservation of the historic fabric of the Cathedral that makes this such an exciting project." - Matthew Northover, Architect

Fundamental to this project was the deep understanding of the history and significance of the Cathedral and its fabric. Purcell’s Cathedral Architects and Heritage Consultants outlined this in a Conservation Management Plan which set out those historic elements most in need of care, helping pinpoint opportunities for considered change.

Pulpit Newcastle Cathedral

This underpinned the delivery of monumental works needed to future-proof the sacred space with the minimum impact to the Cathedral’s historic fabric, introducing innovative new designs while championing elements key to its historic character.

The surrounding landscape has also been reordered to welcome more visitors and create shared spaces; developing a new, more easily accessible main entrance that accommodates new lifts and ramps. These works have dramatically improved Newcastle Cathedral’s offer; it has created a cultural, civic and religious building that is fit-for-service and accessible, forging for the sacred space a protected, flexible and sustainable future set at the very heart of city life. This is common ground, in sacred space.

For further information visit www.purcelluk.com