Delivering access for all at St Paul's

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Delivering access for all at St Paul's

As part of its mission to extend a welcome to all, St Paul’s will soon begin construction of a permanent accessible entrance to the north side of the Cathedral, providing inclusive access for visitors, staff and volunteers. This project, the most significant external change to the Cathedral in its 300 year history, will consist of two symmetrical ramps either side of a central staircase to the north transept door.

St Paul’s is committed to improving access and opportunities, enabling everyone to share in the life and work of the Cathedral. Organisations and individuals from across the heritage and access sectors have been brought together by the Cathedral to develop this fitting new entrance, which is the culmination of 20 years of planning. 

This project demonstrates that carefully designed adaptations for accessibility can not only be permitted but can enhance heritage. St Paul’s hopes this will enable others to challenge long-held concerns around access to heritage buildings.

At present, the Cathedral has an accessible lift providing access to the Cathedral floor, which is some 3.3 metres above street level at its highest point. The introduction of temporary ramps at the Cathedral has facilitated events and services with high numbers of people requiring step-free access, a level of demand lifts simply cannot accommodate. The new entrance will create improved access for a number of groups, including wheelchair users, older people, ambulant disabled people, and those with children in pushchairs. 

Permission has been granted by the City of London and the Cathedral Fabric Commission for England for the construction of this ramped entrance, the main building material of which will be Portland stone, the same stone used by Wren to build St Paul’s. 

The Very Reverend David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s, said: “When St Paul’s was being rebuilt 300 years ago there was no concept of equal access, and so Wren built the Cathedral in classical style with steps on all sides. In the 21st century the difficulties that some people have in accessing this church are unacceptable, and we are setting out to create an easy and equal way into St Paul’s for all people all of the time, regardless of who they are and any particular need they may have. The granting of consent and start of construction for this project after many years of thought and consultation shows that, with sufficient commitment, even challenging heritage environments such as St Paul’s can be made more accessible.”

Oliver Caroe, Surveyor to the Fabric of St Paul’s (the position held by Sir Christopher Wren) said: “A project to install a permanent ramp has a long history and has so far delivered numerous design options - a temporary wooden mock-up which remained in use for over five years, and more recently a fabricated steel temporary ramp, which while serving a functional purpose at present would be inappropriate as a permanent installation for a building of international significance. This permanent ramp will represent the most significant fabric addition to the Cathedral and become a lasting feature of one of the world’s best known and most loved buildings.”

Construction is expected to be completed in summer 2020. The ramp is being funded by donations, of which 90% has already been pledged. A second phase of the project, to build a new internal porch for the entrance, is currently being explored, for which additional funding is needed. This brings the total outstanding funds to be raised for the project to £1.6 million. As with all projects of this type, St Paul’s is dependent on being able to secure external funding in the form of donations and grants as we receive no regular funding from the government. 

Please support us as we strive to deliver equal access at St Paul’s and to make this Cathedral a place for all people all of the time. Click here to donate or for more information, contact the Development Team on development@stpaulscathedral.org.uk or 020 7246 8370.


The Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral is grateful to the following supporters for their generous commitment to this project :

The H. B. Allen Charitable Trust, The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, City of London Endowment Trust for St Paul’s, Garfield Weston Trust for St Paul’s, The Mercers' Company, The Allchurches Trust, The Kirby Laing Foundation, The Goldsmiths’ Company Charity, The Masons' Company Charitable Trust, The Insurers’ Company, The Solicitors’ Company, The Air Pilots’ Company, The Farmers’ Company, The Chartered Surveyors’ Company, The Environmental Cleaners’ Company, The Security Professionals’ Company, The Weavers’ Company 

and to the many other supporters whose gifts enabled this work to happen, including those who wish to remain anonymous.