In March plans were approved for the first significant extension to Sir Basil Spence’s “new” Cathedral. As part of a big plan to make the Cathedral fit to host events during the City of Culture 2021 celebrations it is planned to erect a temporary pavilion to the North West of the Coventry Cathedral Precinct as well as alterations to the Cathedral in the area of the Swedish Windows.
The plans include:
- Erection of a temporary pavilion extension, constructed to span above the existing Refectory, Song School and into the Vergers Lodge.
- Access improvements including a new passenger lift along the visitor route, to connect the Nave and Undercroft levels at the east end of the Cathedral.
- New accessible toilets and baby changing facilities.
- A new Education Room for school visits. This is designed to cope with visits of up to 90 children and will have a separate entrance and cloakroom.
- A Multi-purpose space to support events in the Nave. This will include a “Green Room” for events and special services, a Kitchen area for outside caterers, furniture storage, a meeting space for Cathedral staff and commercial lets.
- Replacing the existing temporary ramp in the north nave aisle with a new stone ramp.
Interestingly the new extension is sited in an area omitted from the original plans for the Cathedral. When the reconstruction of Coventry Cathedral was completed in 1962, there was one component of the original competition brief for the project which remained unfulfilled: plans for the Christian Service Centre were shelved to achieve cost savings. The consequence of this decision was the loss of essential support accommodation to the New Cathedral, and since then, those who use and administer the Cathedral have been acutely aware of the need for these facilities which were never constructed.
The Cathedral and the Ruins are the largest events spaces within Coventry City Centre and will host a busy calendar of cultural events in 2021. An additional 2.4 million visitors to Coventry are anticipated during that year and most will visit the Cathedral precinct.
The plans have surprisingly little impact on the Grade 1 Listed building. One area of change will be that a new opening will be formed in the external wall of the New Cathedral in the location of the Swedish Windows, to provide access to the extension. The Swedish Windows will be removed to a conservator’s workshop for essential conservation work and then returned to a similar position, slightly westward of their present location.
The new extension is designed as a low, modest building which sits sympathetically adjacent to the New Cathedral. Its form is set-back from the external envelope of the existing Refectory, Verger’s Lodge and also the later addition of the Song School. It rises less than 500mm above the highest point of the Verger’s Lodge parapet and sits below the height of the parapet to the flat roof of the Swedish Staircase.
As the cathedral has Ecclesiastical Exemption, Listed Building Consent is not required, although planning permission was required for some of the changes and this was granted in March.
The Coventry Society fully supports the proposed development and wishes the Cathedral well in its efforts to upgrade the building. The only thing we don’t understand is why it is regarded as a temporary development.
Coventry Society members will have the chance to learn about the recent archaeological discoveries in the Cathedral quarter when George Demidowitz speak to the society in November.
Follow this link to see the planning application for the Cathedral development.