December 2023 – Before planning your visit, please check our ‘Visitor Notices’ for accessibility updates and one-off changes to opening times. Click here to view.
A BEACON OF LIGHT
With Your Help…
Meet Newcastle Cathedral’s new Head Verger, Paul Russell-Sewell, as he reflects on his first month in post and asks for your help with our Sponsor A Chair Appeal – a unique opportunity to help bring comfort and support to all of our visitors. (Donors will even get a commemorative plaque to acknowledge their generosity!)
Paul, what an extraordinary time to begin your working life here at Newcastle Cathedral! Tell us a little about yourself and why you are excited to join the team?
I spent 13 years working in the Vergers Department at Sheffield Cathedral, the last eight as Canons’ Verger. It was a thoroughly enjoyable time at Sheffield but I was really enthused about the historic transformation here at Newcastle Cathedral and knew I wanted to play my part.
Having been involved ‘The Gateway Project’, a major National Lottery Heritage Fund project at Sheffield Cathedral back in 2013-2014, I had a fair idea of the challenges I would be letting myself in for.
But now I’m in place, the scale of Newcastle’s National Lottery Heritage Fund project, Common Ground in Sacred Space, is even more impressive and I can’t wait to be able to reopen the Cathedral’s doors to visitors once again this summer.
What is it about our Common Ground in Sacred Space project that excites you so much?
For me, not only protecting the heritage of this inspiring place but also creating a space that everyone in the community can enjoy is key. Not hailing from the region, I wasn’t aware of just how historically important the Cathedral is to the people of Newcastle. Our building has a rich history and its stones and monuments reveal stories of the early movers and shakers who made Newcastle what it is today. It’s fantastic that the National Lottery Heritage Fund project will enable these fascinating stories to be told through new and imaginative interpretation. There’ll be so much for people to see and learn about their heritage when they visit.
But what really heartens me more than anything else is the strong desire to maintain the Cathedral as a place for anyone and everyone from all walks of life to visit. Cathedrals, by their very size and nature, are focal points in their communities and here for people to enjoy. It will be wonderful to see this place soon come alive with all manner of visitors again.
What motivates you in your role as Head Verger?
I think of myself as a custodian of the Cathedral, looking after the people who visit us and all the precious and historical things we house. I’m a real people person and, once we relaunch this summer, I’m really looking forward to giving everyone a warm welcome and having that daily interaction with people who use the Cathedral, whether it’s their first time coming here or the umpteenth time of visiting, and helping to meet their needs. My greatest hope is that everyone who comes through our doors will feel really welcome and at home.
So who do you think Newcastle Cathedral is for?
It’s for you, your friends and family, for the people of Newcastle and the region, for the vulnerable and people who are marginalised, for tourists at home and abroad (COVID-19 permitting of course!), for the business community, for people who are looking for a quiet place to simply be… In a word – everyone!
There is a misconception that you have to be a practicing Christian to be welcomed through our doors. Obviously, Christian worship is our raison d’etre but we are so much more than that. We are a must-see heritage attraction and tourist destination in the medieval heart of Old Newcastle, we offer a tranquil space for reflection, educational experiences and tower tours, and shelter for the vulnerable too. I like to think of us as a dynamic community hub!
So what will people experience now when visiting the Cathedral?
By transforming the Cathedral inside and out, we’re now able to reimagine ways in which we can use the Nave for worship, community events, concerts, conferences and business functions – something we weren’t able to do before because the Cathedral’s pews severely limited the use of the space. Their removal was a critical part of the redevelopment, not only to enable the installation of state-of-the-art underfloor heating, but ultimately to create a flexible space for all visitors to enjoy. However, it does now mean that we have to replace the pews with beautifully designed flexible chairs so that more people in our community can use our wonderful building and find comfort and support within.
So you must be pleased that the Cathedral is now launching its Sponsor A Chair Appeal?
Yes absolutely! By all accounts, whilst expertly crafted, the old Victorian pews were never particularly comfortable to sit on for any length of time. Now, with this Appeal, we have an opportunity to provide visitors with much more comfortable seating during their visit! We’re reaching out to people to ask for their help to sponsor a Cathedral chair. All money raised will go towards the cost of a chair and accessories such as stacking trolleys, which will make it so much easier and quicker for the Verger team to move, stack, and store them around the building. We’d love people to get involved in the knowledge that they will be helping all of our visitors to have a more comfortable and supportive experience. Plus, donors will get two plaques – one on the back of the chair they’ve sponsored and another in a presentation box, which will be a lovely little bonus!
Why is the Cathedral now asking for help to buy chairs?
Many folk have already been so generous in donating to the Cathedral but we have a big space to fill so we’re asking for peoples’ help to ensure we can provide enough seating for all our visitors. Chairs might not seem like the most exciting cause to donate to but comfortable seating will make a huge difference to our community. Not only will the chairs give us the flexibility to use the Cathedral in more imaginative ways to better serve our community but they will provide very welcome comfort and support to the myriad of visitors who come here to be inspired, discover, learn, celebrate, remember, pray, find solace and refuge, or just simply be.
Support our Sponsor A Chair Appeal
A donation of £250 will pay for one chair and contribute towards the cost of accessories such as stacking trolleys. You will also receive two plaques – one on the back of the sponsored chair and the other in a special presentation box.
If you would like to join the many who have already been so generous and help us to ensure we provide comfort and support for all, please click the pink ‘Sponsor A Chair Appeal’ button below which will redirect you to our Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) secure donation page.
Once you have donated to our Sponsor A Chair Appeal, we will contact you by email to request your plaque dedication.
If you would like to make a smaller donation, please click on the button below. Every donation will be hugely appreciated.
With your help, we can secure Newcastle Cathedral for future generations. In these challenging times, if you’re not able to support us now, please do bear us in mind for the future.
… And don’t forget, if you’re a UK tax payer please Gift Aid your donation. If you do, every £1 you donate is worth £1.25 to us. We thank you in advance for your support and generosity.