Southwark, Chichester, Ely, Lincoln Cathedrals and Westminster Abbey have just reopened to visitors, York Minster has extended its visiting hours, Ripon Cathedral is pressing ahead with its £6m transformation plans and there’s socially distant theatre this summer at some of our cathedrals.
More cathedrals open up to visitors and all are Good To Go
English Cathedrals are Good To Go – Every cathedral which is able to re-open to the public has achieved the Visit Britain’s industry standard and consumer charter mark We’re Good to Go which means they have taken all the necessary steps to help ensure people’s safety in line with latest Government and Public Health guidance. It is a signal to anyone wishing to visit that they can be confident that every opportunity possible is taken to ensure visitors wellbeing.
Chichester Cathedral marked its first day open for sightseeing on Saturday with a visit from the Minister for Sport, Heritage & Tourism, Nigel Huddleston MP as part of his tour of the area.
Cathedral Communar & Executive Director David Coulthard, said:
“We were delighted to welcome the Minister to the Cathedral. Our team have worked hard to ensure that the public can visit us safely, and today we had an opportunity to discuss with the Minister the measures we have taken in response to COVID-19 guidelines.
“We also spoke about how the pandemic has impacted life at this Cathedral and other churches, and ways to maintain public safety and to support places of worship, attractions and businesses across our region.”
The Bishop’s Palace Gardens are also open to explore and Chichester Cathedral is also hosting a revised schedule of services and space is set aside for reflection and individual private prayer.
Plan your trip by visiting their website: www.chichestercathedral.org.uk
Westminster Abbey also opened its doors to visitors for the first time on Saturday and urged people who had never been inside the church and only seen it on television to come and see if for themselves. This followed a Twitter poll that found that more than a quarter of its followers who responded had not explored the historic landmark in person.
The Abbey, which is set to lose £12 million in revenue this year and could make some of its staff redundant as a result of the pandemic, has 30% off ticket prices on Wednesday evenings to tempt people back in to London.
Scott Craddock, head of the Abbey’s visitor experience, said:
“We were surprised to hear that many people have only ever seen the Abbey on television.
“We are a nation which loves to travel and enjoys sightseeing in Europe’s great cities, but many of us have never seen the historic attractions on our doorstep.
“It’s a brilliant time at the moment to visit places closer to home because there are fewer crowds and queues – you really will have the place to yourself.”
The Abbey is open for visiting on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm and on Wednesdays from 4.30 pm to 7pm, with timed entry tickets available through advance booking online at www.westminster-abbey.org/visit-us.
Ely Cathedral opened its doors to visitors for the first time after 130 days in lockdown and over 250 visitors came through the doors to visit the “ship of the Fens” on the first day.
Nearly all areas are accessible to the public including Ely’s Lady Chapel and its Almonry Restaurant. It is hoped Tower Tours and guided tours can resume as soon as it is safe to do so.
Chris Flatman, Director of Operations said:
“It has been a long four months since the doors were closed as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, and in accordance with the latest guidance from the Government and the Church of England, we are delighted to be re-opening for the Summer. The Cathedral team has been so excited at the prospect of opening doors and welcoming back visitors and everyone has been working hard to ensure there are plenty of safety measures in place as well as having staff and volunteers are on hand to make sure visitors have an enjoyable experience.“
Southwark Cathedral also fully re-opened this week which meant for the first time visitors could encounter the newly commissioned statue of their most famous parishioner, William Shakespeare – he can be found musing on a bench in the churchyard. Visitors have been encouraged to sit with the new statue and take a selfie and share using the hashtag #withthebard.
This Friday Southwark Cathedral will also host Bard in the Yard, a new play by the Will & Co theatre company as a response to the closure of theatres during the pandemic. This one man show takes its inspiration from our lives in lockdown and transports it to the plague quarantine of 1605.
Peterborough Cathedral has just announced that a socially distanced performance of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest will be staged in the Cathedral Cloisters on 21 August.
The show is part of a short summer tour by DOT Productions and great care has been taken to organise the performance in such a way that the risk from COVID-19 is kept to a minimum. More details of the safety measures taken are on the website.
DOT Productions’ producer, Andrew Lindfield said:
“We are so excited to be able to get back on stage ….we didn’t know how long it would be before productions would be allowed again.
“Returning to such a wonderful venue like Peterborough Cathedral Cloisters was beyond our expectations for 2020, but our socially distanced rehearsals are all planned and we can’t wait to get going to perform in this ‘new normal’ world!”
Tickets are £12 per person and are more details are available here.
Lincoln Cathedral opened up to tourists, pilgrims and general visitors on Wednesday (5 August) and welcomed visitors back with a reduced admission fee. From now until Saturday 5 September admissions will be £5 per adult and children under 16 go free. The Cathedral remains free of charge on Sundays.
The Very Revd Christine Wilson, Dean of Lincoln said:
“Lincoln Cathedral is a place of hospitality and welcome for all, so it is a great joy once again to invite visitors to come and explore this sacred space, discover its rich history and enjoy its unique and peaceful atmosphere.
“We know that many people have missed spending time in this inspirational and beautiful building, and we have missed having them here. It has been important that we take time to ensure we protect the wellbeing of all our visitors, staff and volunteers. Now that the necessary measures are in place, the whole team here is delighted to offer a warm welcome both to those who have visited before, and to those who are stepping inside Lincoln Cathedral for the first time.”
The doors will be open to visitors from 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 3.30pm on Sundays.
Sheffield Cathedral will re-open its gift shop next Tuesday (August 11) from where they will also be running a café take away service too – including the city’s national award-winning ice cream, Our Cow Molly.
York Minster has announced extended opening hours on Fridays and Saturdays in response to strong public demand. The new hours will start on Saturday 8 August.
Patricia Dunlop, Director of Visitor Experience said the move was in response to strong public demand for visits to the Minster. Patricia said:
“Visitors have come from all over the UK, indicating a strong ‘staycation’ market and some international tourists have also visited contributing to a strong demand for the pre-booked timeslots, most of which have sold out in advance. Opening one hour earlier on Fridays and Saturdays will allow 100 people more to visit safely on each day.”
And Ripon Cathedral has announced it will press ahead with ambitious plans for an extension that could see a new building created to house a cafe, shop, education space, and a space for the choir.
The cathedral has raised more than £4m towards the £6m it will need for the extension and an exhibition to showcase its proposals will open in the Cathedral from August 15 until the end of September.
The Dean, the Very Revd John Dobson said:
“We’ve got this ancient history, this fantastic architecture; what we haven’t got is the facilities that people need.
“Each generation has, over thirteen centuries, taken on what has been handed to it and made its contribution. We have a responsibility, in our generation, to make our contribution now.”
We might look a bit different, you might have to act a bit differently, but English Cathedrals are slowly and safely reopening after four months in lockdown offering a daily programme of public worship, private prayer and reflection, and in many cases reduced visiting hours. Some shops and cafes have re-opened. Expect timed ticketed booking systems, hand sanitiser stations, one-way routes, and socially distanced messaging and from August 8 face coverings become compulsory for people visiting churches and a range of other indoor spaces.
Please remember to check the website of each cathedral before you visit to avoid disappointment. All their details can be found here.