St Edmundsbury Cathedral access improvements

With the successful completion of the tower project the Chapter turned its attention once again to equal access. An access audit was commissioned from consultants which confirmed the preference for access through the north porch. The guidance of the Fabric Advisory Committee was that in view of the sensitive nature of the fine interior, guarding and other physical interventions should be to the minimum required and not necessarily those implied by the Building Regulations. The design maintains the various floor planes existing with no fresh upstands. The upper range of steps from church up to street level is pulled back from the main set of circular steps to create a landing at church floor level with the ramp around the north end of the porch. This maintains a vista of rising curved steps from the low level cloister and makes the ramp invisible from there. The existing concrete paving of the porch was in need of renewal after fifty years of wear and the new paving is in Ancaster Weatherbed stone generally, with York stone for the ramps. At the step edges and the head/foot of each landing there is a visual marker of inserted bronze studs, a detail which existed in the previous step arrangement. The ramp slopes gently from the street level to the shop door, which has been extended down to give improved access into the shop. The ramp then curves around on the east side of the space, landing at Cathedral floor level. Those who cannot manage steps therefore have an independent means of access to the Cathedral floor level, throughout the nave, aisles and chapels and then to the cloister through the platform lift.

Handrails are kept simple and unobtrusive in design, in the most needed places. The noticeboard which formerly hung on the west wall in a dark corner has been removed and a light fitting reinstated, which gives good artificial lighting at the north end of the porch. This is supplemented by timed light fittings within the shop shining through the glass doors.

In the summer it has been the practice to leave the great oak doors from the porch to the church open, allowing visitors to see and enter easily. The second part of the porch vision was the installation of secondary glass doors into the Cathedral church, allowing that ease of viewing and entry to continue throughout the year. The new glass doors are accommodated in an oak sub frame and swing both ways allowing for emergency exit. As a result visitors to the Cathedral are able to see into the church on their arrival at the north porch and heat loss is reduced in the winter.

The glazed doors were installed in January 2011 and the main porch access improvements in January/February 2012, with formal opening in April 2012. The improvements have proved to be a great success. The project has not only opened up the Cathedral church access more widely but has removed 50 years of accretions from the porch giving fresh vitality to the interior and enhanced welcome to the regular congregation, the people of the Diocese, pilgrims and other visitors.