Careful yet contemporary conservation.
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.
We have been appointed as architects to the Cathedral since 1999 and are responsible for the conservation, care and development of the Cathedral and Abbey, many of which are Grade I listed buildings.
We have, in 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.
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.
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.
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.
Natural Stone Awards 2016: Winner of the Craftsmanship Award for the restoration of the south transept
© Andy Marshall
Nicholas is recognised as one of the leading architects working on historic and ecclesiastical buildings in the UK. He holds a number of advisory roles at both regional and national level.
Steve will be a familiar face to many of our ecclesiastical clients, with whom he has worked for over 30 years on the full range of survey and detailed design services on historic listed buildings across the country.