One of the largest and most impressive restoration projects ever undertaken in the UK – the restoration of St Pauls Cathedral – has been completed in time for the cathedral’s 300th anniversary.
The St Paul’s Cathedral programme of cleaning and repair has taken 15 years and numerous highly skilled contractors, who have comprehensively restored the building, inside and out, for the first time in its history. The project was led by Martin Stancliffe Architects and Purcell Miller Tritton.
Since the project of cleaning and repair commenced, the exterior and interior of the cathedral have been beautifully restored. Once blackened and damaged, the west front now rises majestically at the top of Ludgate Hill. The interior of the cathedral has been transformed by state-of-the-art conservation techniques and the light that now floods the space highlights the Portland stone used in the cathedral’s construction bringing mosaics, carvings and sculpture to life. More than 150,000 blocks of the cathedral’s white Portland stone were cleaned on the outside alone.
Other work included repair of the interior, redesign and landscaping of the south churchyard gardens, restoration of the grand organ and adding wheelchair access to the crypt. The American Memorial Chapel, built in the 1950s to commemorate US forces who died in the second world war, has also been cleaned and restored.
“One of the main elements was the comprehensive treatment of all the external stonework to make sure that it was clean and watertight. Another major element was the extensive cleaning programme throughout the interior of the cathedral, which was a six year project in its own right” said Mr Martin Stancliffe, of Martin Stancliffe Architects.
“A whole sequence of projects stretching over around 15 years have been carried out in the crypt – all geared to making the space more useable and including the creation of a conference facility, a refectory, shop, education and choir practice facilities. Improving accessibility was also key to the project” he added.
Martin Stancliffe, Surveyor to the Fabric, who has overseen the restoration project, said:
“It has been a privilege – and an extraordinary experience – to have led the team of professionals, craftsmen and conservators who have contributed so much to this transforming project. This great building is now in a sound state, and probably looks better than at any time since its completion in 1711.”
“This great building is now in a sound state and probably looks better than at any time since its completion in 1711” said Mr Stancliffe.
UK leading mosaic experts carry out challenging restoration
One of Britain’s leading mosaic design, conservation and restoration companies – Trevor Caley Associates – carried out the restoration and conservation of mosaics in the cathedral, including those on the barrel vaults, along the chancel and on the pendentives.
The works included the replacement of decayed or lost tesserae and the stabilisation of loose tesserae, often working at height when carrying out in situ repairs. A particularly challenging element of this work was the need to remove the 25 square metre St Mark pendentive mosaic, which hangs just above the organ, to the company’s workshop for restoration and then re-hanging it six months later. This involved working on a very high scaffold suspended from the cathedral’s central dome at a level just below the Whispering Gallery.
“This was a particularly noteworthy project for us. It was an enjoyable job, working with a nice team and all went to programme” said Mr Gary Bricknell, Director of Trevor Caley Associates.
Other prestigious projects by the company include the recent completion of mosaic tile works at the Grade 1 listed St Pancras Station, as well as schemes at the Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial.