Carlisle Cathedral

Careful yet contemporary conservation.

Carlisle Cathedral
Aerial image of the Grade I listed Carlisle Cathedral.

The Grade I listed Carlisle Cathedral is a seemingly modest sandstone building from the outside, but step inside and its interior and the gloriously painted chancel ceiling delights its many visitors.

Standing on the border of England and Scotland for almost 900 years, it has a lively story to tell, and the church actively engages with visitors and its active congregation.

Buttress was architect to the Cathedral for twenty-four years to 2023, and were responsible for the conservation, care and development of the Cathedral and Abbey, many of which are Grade I listed buildings.

We have, during this time, designed a new lighting system for the Cathedral Church, provided conservation advice on historic furnishing and medieval wall paintings, and done stone repair to the east front and south transepts of the Church.

We have also remodelled and carried out fabric repairs to parts of the Abbey to create tenanted accommodation and created concept designs to develop the Fratry as a community and education centre.

exterior of carlisle cathedral

Stonework Restoration

In 2015, we were appointed to carry out restoration work to the cathedral's principal entrance in the south wall of the Transept.

The entrance way was made from a soft type of St Bees stone that had weathered badly over the years, resulting in extensive loss of detail. To protect from further damage, the undercut stone carving had been covered with chicken wire netting; however, this was disfiguring to the main entrance and was rusting.

Sections of the stone were very soft and friable making them unable to support any conservation intervention. Decayed sections were carefully removed and replaced with newly carved and cut stone, carefully selected to match the original. Working in close consultation with the masonry contractor a St Bees stone was identified that was robust enough to respond to weathering.

close up of external restored stonework on cathedral
close up of external restored stonework on cathedral

To create carvings that closely matched the original, the carver carefully studied the existing pattern to form a view of the layout of vine leaves and of the animals hidden in the vegetation. Casts were then made from the original to inform the carving process.

To prevent future water damage, the coping stone on the top of the gable was lifted and a lead membrane was inserted to enable the wall to dry out. Throughout the process, careful conservation was given to ensuring that the stonework could drain properly so that the new carvings and their craftsmanship would be maintained.

Lighting Design

New lighting systems were designed for the Cathedral church that highlight the beautiful painted ceiling of the chancel and that are discreetly placed out of the line of sight of the congregation and visitors in the nave.

interior of cathedral with rows of pews, high intricately decorated ceiling


Natural Stone Awards 2016: Winner of the Craftsmanship Award for the restoration of the south transept

Image credits

© Andy Marshall

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