Research commissioned by Chester Cathedral in 2018 assessed that the Cathedral’s key weakness was that the building was ‘strangely invisible, with very little street presence and an entrance which is not obvious’. Efforts to address this problem have started with the installation of the glass fronted Pilgrim Porch in 2022, which allows the building to be visibly open, while maintaining heat levels within the church. This doorway does not work as a tourist / visitor entrance because it reveals the nave interior too quickly and without arousing curiosity resulting in people pausing, taking a quick photo and leaving rather than engaging with the heritage.
An opportunity presented itself to the Cathedral through the buildings occupied by Barclays Bank, which connect the Cathedral’s Abbey Gateway to the main street-front entrance and form two adjoining wings that occupy the corner of Northgate Street and St Werburgh Street. With the support and agreement of Barclays Bank and Cheshire West and Chester Council, the Cathedral has been able to agree with Barclays that they will vacate the premises in mid-December 2023, at which point Chester Cathedral will take responsibility for the premises and launch Project Discovery.
Cathedral in the city
The vision for Project Discovery revolves around ‘Cathedral in the city’, creating a ‘confident presence’ in the city centre, increasing visibility and signage to Chester Cathedral and developing space that the people of Chester can be proud of, in order to:
- facilitate social engagement and meet the needs of the local community, enhancing the diversity and inclusiveness of our audiences and the benefits that arise from working with us
- enable Chester Cathedral to become more open and easily accessible, convening an ever more diverse range of city partners to provide support, learning and insight into the history of the Cathedral and city
- enhance the interpretive offer of this important site to visitors both within Chester Cathedral and across the wider estate and capitalise on opportunities for specialist heritage skills training and visitor engagement, while unlocking the hidden treasures that the cathedral has to offer
- increase footfall into the building, on which the commercial sustainability of Chester Cathedral depends by optimising the use of space and enhancing its sustainable operation
The facilities which must be provided by this project are
- an inspiring new entrance, with clear wayfinding and interpretation that helps reveal the Cathedral to City Centre visitors, contributing to a sense of place and making the City more readable
- flexible space which can be used for commercial and community ventures, whilst showcasing the Cathedral and city’s treasures and heritage
- modern facilities to accommodate social engagement initiatives and learning
- collaborative offices in the heart of the city for Cathedral staff and volunteers
The project is anticipated to cost around £11million at today’s prices and the Cathedral will be working hard to secure funding from local and national grant giving bodies. We will also be encouraging those who have an interest in seeing the Cathedral deliver a project that can serve the city to give generously if they are able.
Support Project Discovery
Help us to achieve Project Discovery.
Regular giving – by standing order
You can donate regularly to Project Discovery. Please contact your bank and request a standing order to be sent to our account.
Name: Chester Cathedral
Account No.: 79830625
They will ask you for the amount you wish to donate, the date each month and a reference. If you could use ‘Discovery’ and then your name as the reference – we can check the donation reaches Project Discovery.