Duke officially opens extension to Norwich Catholic cathedral

Dan GrimmerA significant building which will provide much needed community and learning facilities for people across the region was officially opened by the Duke of Norfolk.Dan Grimmer

A significant building which will provide much needed community and learning facilities for people across the region was officially opened by the Duke of Norfolk.

The Narthex is an extension at the St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral which has taken six years of fundraising and dedication to complete.

On Saturday the 18th Duke of Norfolk was the guest of honour at the Earlham Road cathedral which is also this year celebrating its centenary.

The Narthex will be a focal point to bring together people from the local and regional communities and different countries and cultures and it complements the neo-Gothic cathedral. The new �2m building boasts a main hall, a caf�, shop, licensed bar, exhibition space and educational facilities for educational and cultural activities.

The Duke of Norfolk said: 'This has been a tremendous success. The cathedral is now 100 years old and there is a new part of it which really helps mix the modern with the traditional.

'The Narthex is a great project and the building can be used by a wide range of people. Everyone has been incredibly supportive and it is a great welcome to the cathedral and to Norfolk.'

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Fr James Walsh, cathedral dean, led the service on Saturday. He said addressed the 200-strong congregation and said the Narthex would be used 'by many generations'.

He said we would now be looking to the next 100 years with a 'sense of hope' and said the 'best is yet to come'.

The Catholic Cathedral was gifted to the city of Norwich by Henry Fitzalan Howard, the 15th Duke of Norfolk, providing a new centre of worship for the Catholic community in Norwich and at his request it was designed in the Early English style of the 13th century by architect George Gilbert Scott junior.

After nearly a century as the parish church of the Catholic community in Norwich it became the mother church of the new diocese of East Anglia in 1976. It is now the second largest Catholic cathedral in the country.

Through the new centre the cathedral can now offer facilities that appeal to a wider public and the aim is to extend a warm welcome to visitors from the parish, the diocese and a wide range of communities.

Some 400sqm have been added to the cathedral and the tranquil setting of the Narthex means it is ideal for celebratory events and business functions.

Clare Goddard, Narthex development manager, said: 'This is a landmark occasion. The Narthex acknowledges the past, the present and the future and celebrates it.

'This is a versatile facility which welcomes anyone, regardless of their religion.'

The Narthex has been built with the support of a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other funding bodies.

It was designed by London and Cornwall based architect Russell Taylor. Its construction started last February and the team were faced with a number of challenges, including unearthing the original Norwich Gaol foundations.