Pew removal, organ restoration and archaeological investigation planned in exciting regeneration of the iconic building
Derby Cathedral has today announced plans for an ambitious five-year regeneration project. Following current work on the roof, the project aims to reveal and restore the Cathedral interior as an open and flexible space open to all in the city, recovering the original vision for the building and tapping in to technological innovation to create a 21st century Cathedral for Derby.
Entitled ‘Revealing the Derby Story’, the £2.5m project will focus on four main areas: providing new flexible seating, replacing the 1930s concrete floor, offering visitors an immersive understanding of the history and significance of the Cathedral, and restoring the unique Compton organ, much in need of repair, to its rightful role as the majestic musical voice of the building. The project will include an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £1.6m.
Responding to the needs of the city, the project will enhance the ability of the Cathedral – already the largest seated venue inside the ring road - to host events and concerts on a far larger scale. It will attract new visitors to the city centre and bring the city to life at night. ‘We want to enable the Cathedral to offer a gathering place for events and services large and small,’ says the Revd Dr Sue Jones, Acting Dean of Derby. ‘This will invigorate the city centre and help the Cathedral’s work to continue for centuries to come.’
A church has stood on the site of Derby Cathedral continuously since the year 943. Almost a thousand years later, the medieval church was in disrepair and was rebuilt in 1723 by the architect James Gibbs, who created a harmonious, beautifully-proportioned space, an open, uncluttered nave with seating at the sides. However, in the 19th century more seating was installed throughout the building, out of keeping with the architect’s vision. Derby Cathedral’s project aims to open up the Cathedral’s heritage and restore this extraordinary space at the heart of the city.
As well as recapturing Gibbs’ vision, the project will be able to reveal the history and archaeology that lies beneath. The concrete floor and the old pew plinths will be lifted for the floor to be replaced. Archaeologists will be offered a unique opportunity to discover more about the medieval foundations, some of which came to light in 2015 during rewiring work. At the same time, digital technology will be used to interpret and bring to life the untold stories around the Cathedral. ‘The Cathedral’s most famous monument is Bess of Hardwick’s tomb,’ says Adam Buss, Chief Executive of Derby QUAD. ‘We will be able to develop cutting-edge apps and interpretative technology which will allow Bess and others commemorated in the Cathedral to tell their own stories.’
Derby Cathedral is working in partnership with several innovative Marketing Derby bondholders: the University of Derby, Derby QUAD and ON Events Ltd. “We are delighted to be working alongside Derby Cathedral during the historic transformation of this iconic space,” says Guy Eaton, ON’s Managing Director. “We are extremely keen to show off this beautiful building in order to create inspiring environments in which to hold events of all kinds.” The project will create a flexible multi-use space for the city and uncover the rich history of Derby, and will give students work experience as interns in all areas. ‘We see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Derby students to be involved in a step-changing project,’ says Professor Kathryn Mitchell, the University’s Vice-Chancellor. ‘There are so many opportunities here for our students, whether they are studying engineering or music, events management or history, and we are very excited about the potential of this project.’
Research for the project has revealed, through an extensive survey of visitors to the Cathedral, a number of problems with the present building, especially for disabled users. Access is difficult, the present seating has been moved and adapted in the past and is at the end of its useful life, and many fascinating aspects of the building’s history remain untold. ‘The message we’ve received from our consultations is clear,’ says Rachel Morris, Chapter Steward of Derby Cathedral. ‘Visitors and worshippers want more comfortable seating, they want to explore more of the history of the building, and they want a more varied range of events in the Cathedral. Through ‘Revealing the Derby Story’, we will make this happen.’
Readers can donate to the project directly via JustGiving’s text donation scheme. Text ‘CATH02 £’ and your amount (i.e. CATH02 £10) and help the Cathedral to ‘Reveal the Derby Story’.
To read and download a copy of the audience research report based on the survey carried out in December 2016, click here