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Looking back at our Year of Transformation

January 2021

Entering 2021, our Common Ground in Sacred Space Project Manager, Lindy Gilliland, looks back on the last twelve months’ activity with amazement at what’s been achieved:

No one at the Cathedral could have predicted the pandemic and how the project would have to adapt. It’s a relief to know that we’ve weathered the storm to date: our Scottish landscape architects and engineering consultants could not even cross the border to visit the site for around six months!

A significant amount of asbestos strip out; a well-organised and committed work force; the use of a lot of photography, and many online discussions have pulled us through. Here’s a round-up of the key events…

January

Starting off the year, the Victorian pews are shipped off to over 50 new homes in the North East and beyond. All historic furniture is placed in storage before Historic Property Restoration Ltd (HPR) move in.

February

Monuments are boarded up and regimental colours are vacuumed and rolled up. The wooden pew platform is dismantled and HPR starts the massive task of lifting ledger stones.

March

Schoolchildren work with a local artist, Josie Brookes, to create Cathedral Characters: an exhibition of colourful artwork, to be displayed right around the churchyard while building works are underway. When lockdown strikes, asbestos strip-out is still able to continue underneath Cathedral Hall.

April

The stone masons are back and working in ‘bubbles’. The Nave becomes a hive of activity, with ledger stones levered up, archaeological recording underway, and little pieces of history uncovered.

May

The lower ground floor takes shape – loos are demolished, drains and lift shaft are cut, and ancient skeletons unearthed. In the Nave, the Architect and Archaeologist plot new resting places for 40 previously unrecorded ledger stones.

June

Much of the floor is now up and specialists make sense of spaghetti wiring in wide open trenches. Meanwhile, clergy set about designing the Newcastle Beatitudes: ten city blessings for the outdoor churchyard trail.

July

The south and north aisles are complete; the new east entrance has been punched through, and outside paving is stripped away.

August

Our interpretation team begins to think about which of the Cathedral’s stories we’ll tell through word, image, sound and light. We talk to marketing experts about promoting the Cathedral through new wayfinding and online content.

Draft interpretation visuals by Core

September

For Heritage Open Days, we welcome almost 90 visitors: loyal newsletter subscribers and members of our congregation who become the first members of the public to view the changes taking place.

October

A makeshift cabin screens off burial excavations in the churchyard from public gaze. Ledger stones are winched into place and families are invited to take a tour of the works during the October half-term holidays.

November

Pallet upon pallet of granite arrives from Portugal and the first signs of terracing appear on the site of the former car park.

December

Which brings us right up-to-date, and the Nave is ready for paving out; underfloor heating coils are laid, and wet cement is drying. The Cathedral’s oldest resident, the so-called ‘Unknown Knight’, is levered from his resting place by conservators from Skillington Workshop, ready for a spruce up.


Watch this space for more on the Cathedral’s, and the mystery knight’s transformation. And if you’re not already, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive updates.

This work is part of our National Lottery Heritage Fund project, Common Ground in Sacred Space, which is due for completion in summer 2021.