St Paul’s Cathedral has built its first permanent ramped entrance - the most significant external enhancement in the cathedral’s 300-year history - with the support of a recurrent grant from Allchurches Trust. This is phase one of a two-step project to increase accessibility at the cathedral
The beautifully designed, accessible ramp has involved more than 20 years of planning, design and testing, and is made of Portland stone – the same stone originally used by Sir Christopher Wren to build ‘the new’ St Paul’s.
Construction began onsite in summer 2019 and the first phase of the build – including groundwork, drainage and creation of the substructure – was completed as planned. Significant delays were caused in spring 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic, but nevertheless work was able to resume in July 2020 with the construction completed in summer 2021.
The new, elegant entrance will be fully operational once phase two of the project is finished…
The Very Reverend David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s, said: “When St Paul’s was being rebuilt 300 years ago there was no concept of equal access, and so Wren built the Cathedral in classical style with steps on all sides. In the 21st century the difficulties that some people have in accessing this church are unacceptable, and so we have created an easy and equal way into St Paul’s for all people all of the time, regardless of who they are and any particular need they may have.”
The second stage of the programme is the construction of a new Inner Portico (porch) within the North Transept. A striking design for the structure has been approved, reflecting Wren’s superlative classical architecture and will enable easy access for all visitors, irrespective of their physical ability.
The Inner Portico will also form a ‘Remember Me’ memorial in the cathedral, honouring all those who have died. A special area of the North Transept will be accessible, at no cost to the public, offering a space where people can light a candle, sit and reflect. This will give many people a quiet space to grieve the tragedies of the pandemic.
The Covid Memorial Portico is due to be finished by March 2022 and will be followed by a major launch to mark the success of the entire project, which will quite literally open doors for many more people.
Allchurches Trust provides an annual grant to cathedrals in the UK and Ireland, which can help fund changes to buildings but also community outreach and education initiatives.