Faith in the future: Sheffield Cathedral revamp plan preview

An impression of how the new approach to the cathedral could look.
An impression of how the new approach to the cathedral could look.

An ambitious scheme to revamp Sheffield Cathedral to make it more welcoming is awaiting lottery approval. Peter Kay reports

A £4.6 MILLION project to upgrade Sheffield Cathedral ready for the centenary of the local Anglican diocese is reaching a critical point.

A view of the inside of  Sheffield Cathedral as it looks now.

A view of the inside of Sheffield Cathedral as it looks now.

At stake is a scheme to refurbish the nave with a new floor, seating, heating and lighting and to remodel the entrance to the church to make it more welcoming.

Church authorities expect to hear in September whether their bid for lottery cash has been successful. Meanwhile, their plans to change the exterior of the building are now in the hands of the council.

They are working on the basis of work starting next Easter. It would take a whole year and mean that worship would switch temporarily to St George’s Chapel, at the side of the cathedral, to be screened off from the main body of the church.

It’s a similar project to the one that has currently closed St Marie’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Norfolk Row.

The Dean of Sheffield Cathedral, the Very Reverend Peter Bradley, said: “We believe that Sheffield Cathedral should be a place that welcomes everybody in Sheffield, so they feel pride and feel more comfortable and so they can see the history.

“We’ll be able to welcome tens of thousands more people every year. We hope the whole community of Sheffield will feel that it is their building because it is.”

Completion is scheduled for 2014, which will be the centenary of the Diocese of Sheffield, and the centenary of the creation of Sheffield Cathedral from the former Sheffield Parish Church.

The proposed internal work includes installing a new stone floor, taking out the pews, many of which are broken, to make way for flexible bench seating, rewiring and replacing the heating system, which “has been on its last legs for about 15 years”, said Mr Bradley.

Steps inside the cathedral will be removed for the benefit of wheelchair users.

The proposed external work extends the main entrance near St James Row, using stone, glass and metal fins to make it more visible and attractive – a development that is “light, welcoming and feels modern, rather than the dank and dark entrance which makes it feel like going underground,” said Mr Bradley.

New landscaping is designed to draw in people from the city centre, relocating Victorian gates to create a more obvious entrance from Church Street.

So far the cathedral has secured around half the money it needs, with promised support from the Church Burgesses Trust. But much depends on a £1.34m bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Without the lottery cash, interior improvements could be made, but it is unlikely that all the changes could be made to the entrance.

All the proposed alterations have been approved by the ecclesiastical authorities. Planning permission for the new exterior is now being sought from the council.

One of the aims is ensure the cathedral is an attractive location for a wide range of events and groups. In recent times, it has been used increasingly for concerts and even for a beer festival and comedy night.

For the past two years, all the pews have been removed so that the annual dinner of the President of the Chamber of Commerce can be held there.

The ‘Centenary Project’ would mean preclude any big events for a year.