Bury St Edmunds’ Cathedral – ‘raising the roof’

Cambridge architects contribute to raising cathedral visitor numbers

The number of visitors to the cathedral at Bury St Edmunds rose by almost 50% in 2011, to 97,000, thanks in no small part to Freeland Rees Roberts, the Cambridge architects.

Visitors were drawn to the cathedral to see the new vaulted ceiling under the roof of the central tower in all its varied and gloriously coloured detail, a ceiling constructed and decorated by a team of outstanding craftsmen. The leader of the project was Henry Freeland, one of the two founding partners of Freeland Rees Roberts, whose specialism is conservation and design within historic buildings.

It was Henry Freeland last year who gave the lecture in the cathedral, to an audience that included the Prince of Wales, on how the ceiling was constructed and the difficulties attendant upon putting it in place below the roof.

‘The expression “raising the roof” took on its true meaning, when we did just that,’ reflects Henry now in his Cambridge studio. ‘ So many problems had to be overcome, not least that of access to the space below the roof. When we began, there was no access; we had to create it. I am so pleased that the outstanding work of the team can be seen and is being admired by visitors.’

Given visitors’ reaction to the ceiling in 2011, there is little doubt that numbers will continue to grow in 2012, raising awareness of a cathedral that deserves to be better known.

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