Delivering Equal Access at St Paul's

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Delivering Equal Access at St Paul's

St Paul’s is a centre of welcome, worship and learning, promoting dignity and justice for all. In the last 20 years significant progress has been made in making the Cathedral a welcoming and accessible space, but there is still much work to be done to ensure St Paul’s is open for everyone. 

The Cathedral is working towards the 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.

We are committed to improving access and opportunities, enabling everyone to share in the life and work of the Cathedral, and this project are just part of an ongoing programme of access enhancements. This includes enthusiastic participation in Disabled Access Day since 2016 and offering free entry to disabled people and a carer. 

The Equal Access Project aims to demonstrate that carefully designed adaptations for accessibility can not only be permitted but can enhance heritage. St Paul’s hopes this will enable others to be more confident and change the narrative around access to heritage buildings. 

At present, the Cathedral has an accessible lift, which is able to transport one wheelchair at a time to the Cathedral floor, which is some 2.3 metres above street level. NHS England estimates there are now 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK, around 1.8% of the UK population. The introduction of temporary ramps at the Cathedral has facilitated events and services accommodating in excess of 100 wheelchair users, a level of demand lifts simply cannot accommodate. With the number of wheelchair users expected to increase, the lift alone is not adequate to provide the welcome the Cathedral wishes to give all people. 

Permission has been granted by the City of London and the Cathedral Fabric Commission for England for the construction of this alternative 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 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 now 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 ever to the Cathedral and become a lasting feature of one of the world’s best known and most loved buildings.”

With permission for the new ramped entrance in place, construction is planned to begin in 2019 and to be completed in 2020. This will be entirely funded by donations, of which 85% has already been pledged. As with all projects of this type, St Paul’s is entirely 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.