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Manchester Cathedral To Close

600 year old building to temporarily close as it feels the chill

Written by . Published on December 12th 2012.


Manchester Cathedral To Close

MANCHESTER CATHEDRAL is to close next year between Easter and Christmas - from 3 April until 1 December.

The closure, subject to approval from the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, results from an unholy chill in the building.  

"We have to always keep in the forefront of our minds, how does the Cathedral serve this city in the long term?" 

In the blitz of December 1940, a large German landmine exploded in the north aisle of the church. Amongst British cathedrals only Coventry suffered more damage than Manchester. Although the late medieval wood carving and much of the fabric of the building miraculously survived, the organ on top of the screen was destroyed. 

Cathedral organ on the choir screen prior to 1940 destructionCathedral organ on the choir screen prior to 1940 destruction

The Cathedral now has the money in place to put an English-made organ back on the choir screen. The cost will be £2.1m. But before that can happen the Cathedral wants to ensure urgent work needed with the underfloor heating takes place. 

This requires the insertion of a new system and the complete lifting of the floor across the church - Manchester Cathedral has the widest nave in the country. The dusty and mucky work needs to be completed before the delicate apparatus of a brand new organ is installed. 

At present the heating of the Cathedral only operates at 15 per cent capacity - the solder on the copper pipes inserted during the post-WWII repairs having failed. The work is so extensive because the underfloor heating was laid in places under eighteen inches of concrete. The total cost of the work will be £2.2m.

An intriguing aspect of the new work is the geothermal solution. Boreholes will be drilled deep into the earth and the heat from the geology under Manchester, used to provide 80 per cent of the Cathedral's heat.

Anthony O'Connor, The Director of Fundraising and Development, describes the choices faced by the Cathedral. "We knew we had to complete this work before installing the organ, so we were faced with a couple of options. The heating could be repaired in stages over two years but this would severely affect services and prevent any large events taking place. Or we could close for eight months and work day and night and blast through it.

"We went with the second choice. Reluctantly. This has been a very, very tough decision. The Cathedral apart from very short periods (in WWII and after the IRA bomb) has offered upbroken worship for hundreds of years. Logically though, this provides the best and most efficient solution although it's been very difficult to swallow. We will try to soften the blow with open days, there'll be a webcam and we'll also install a viewing area, so people can still see inside our beautiful building."

Nave beautyNave beauty - the Cathedral as it is now, the lovely floor will have to be broken and replaced

So what about services for the Cathedral congregation?

"Outside the west door on Victoria Street (the extension of Deansgate closed to traffic earlier this year) there will be a temporary wooden church built. There will be no break in services," says O'Connor.

Confidential regrets the closure but understands the reason. The wooden church is a splendid solution though.

In fact it could be an opportunity for an architect to create something truly beautiful, something that will really resonate with the Cathedral's origins. The earliest Saxon church more than a millennium ago and built on the present Cathedral site would have been timber, and wood is such a fine building material. Oxford Road Station provides the clearest evidence for this.

The work will also provide another opportunity.

"We will have the archaeologists in," says O'Connor. "We're wondering whether we'll find bodies we didn't know were there but also whether we'll find out more about earlier churches on the site. The area under the boxes close to the west door has never been opened up before. it's exciting."

O'Connor pauses before returning to the subject of the closure.

"We have to always keep in the forefront of our minds, how does the Cathedral serve this city in the long term? How can we best be part of Manchester, how can we help make it a better place? Well, first off we have to be welcoming. A cold place isn't welcoming. The work is part of making sure we remain central to worship in the city and also, with our events and our role as a tourist destination, an ambassador for it."

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

Manchester Cathedral, the area in front of the tower will be the location of the temporary churchManchester Cathedral, the area in front of the tower will be the location of the temporary church

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19 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

the Whalley RangerDecember 12th 2012.

Will we now lose city status as a result?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Hero
RevaulxDecember 12th 2012.

No. This is a complete myth; cities and cathedrals arent connected, and I don't think they ever have been. Blackburn has had a cathedral since the 1920s and is still a borough. Sunderland is a cathedral-less dump and yet is a city...

MCR Cuture VultureDecember 12th 2012.

Wow, sounds interested project, good luck with it !

AnonymousDecember 12th 2012.

So that temporary closure of Victoria Street is staying then...

AnonymousDecember 12th 2012.

I hope they put that beautiful floor back correctly - the fossils were a beautiful sight and one of my favourite things to look at.

AnonymousDecember 12th 2012.

The cathedral will reopen as a budget hotel after it was bought by a London based investor recently. Planning dept acknowledge that it is a controversial proposal but are 'minded to approve' because they 'consider' that the regeneration benefits outweigh the loss of communal value associated with the building's current use and character. I kid you not.

EllDecember 12th 2012.

Um... BS. The council don't own the Cathedral and if it were sold by the Church why would this story even be out there? This is such a dumbass rumour!

1 Response: Reply To This...
crisbyDecember 14th 2012.

calm down Ell, methinks our anonymous friend was being satirical, and not a bad effort either ... but if it did happen, I bet there'd be no room there at Christmas.

Steve RomanDecember 12th 2012.

Echoing Jonathan's "opportunity for an architect", I would suggest that the temporary wooden church should be constructed so that it can be taken apart and re-used, as a church or for other purposes, elsewhere.

1 Response: Reply To This...
LeighDecember 13th 2012.

How about a temporary structure made of used shipping containers?

Liam McClearyDecember 12th 2012.

Will the new organ be an original design or a replica of one destroyed in the war?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 16th 2012.

The new organ will not be a replica of the one destroyed in the war.

AnonymousDecember 13th 2012.

If the cathedral's regular congregation can be accommodated in a shed then why bother repairing the cathedral at all at such vast expense?

There are lots of under-occupied churches nearby which could take the displaced worshippers.

I'd rather the £2.2 million was spent on helping the poor.

Jane WeightmanDecember 13th 2012.

This is a crazy, excessively expensive project. Underfloor heating only makes economic sense for new build or re-build not for something that is already 600 years old.
Forget geothermal, it has no proven record of reliability.A little green man has crept in here somewhere and overwhelmed the trustees with eco- sustainability. In any case in 5 years time gas at a fraction of today's costs will be being pumped to Manchester from under Blackpool Tower.

One has to ask what is driving this super expensive process . Is it an archeological dig or is it to keep the kneelers warm?

What's wrong with pipes and radiators. What do the old ladies do to warm their hands and bottoms when they arrive in church on a cold Winter's morning, Get down on their knees? Well I suppose they do eventually but not straight away.
A waste of time and money!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Steve5839December 21st 2012.

Thanks Jane for your incisive review of Mechanical Engineering, so you qualified as a Chartered Mechanical Engineer when?

Adrienne DawsonDecember 18th 2012.

hi whats wrong with you mancunians! its history!

Don AllwrightDecember 18th 2012.

Are the anonymous comments the same person? Why can't you sign your name(s)? No one will sue you!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 18th 2012.

Yawn!

The only gaurantee about anonymous is that Don will pop up after with some comment about people not puting their name to things.

AnonymousDecember 18th 2012.

Its cold in there and a little damp plus its a big building with big upkeep costs. If they can put in a decent heating system it will be more atractive to event organisers which lets the cathedral bring in more money to help pay for itself.

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