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Norwich cathedral Narthex opens

PUBLISHED: 06:40 17 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:54 02 July 2010

The new Narthex building at St.John's Cathedral in Norwich

The new Narthex building at St.John's Cathedral in Norwich

Kate Scotter

Its gothic splendour may have dominated the city for a century but Norwich's catholic cathedral has now got some modern flair thanks to a new multi-million pound extension.

Its gothic splendour may have dominated the city for a century but Norwich's catholic cathedral has now got some modern flair thanks to a new multi-million pound extension.

St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral yesterday unveiled its new Narthex, a £2m extension to the Grade I listed building providing community and learning facilities.

The building has been designed to complement the neo-Gothic cathedral and comprises a shop, café, bar and multi-purpose hall.

It took nine years of fundraising and a year to build and its opening “by happy chance” coincides with the cathedral's centenary celebrations.

Father James Walsh, the dean of St John's, said: “This is a very special year for us and the Narthex marks a new era in the life and history of St John's.

“What we're doing in our own way matches, but in a different way, the new building at the other cathedral, our elder sister down the road.

“It's a way of saying to the city of Norwich, to Norfolk and far beyond that St John's has come of age and we feel that this building can fulfil a particular and special role in our city.

“The new building and the cathedral are for everybody and our hospitality is all embracing. This facility means we can organise all kinds of events and we can provide a suitable welcome and venue.”

The new building, which was designed by London and Cornwall-based architect Russell Taylor, comprises an education and interpretation gallery, a new shop, a refectory, a function hall, a licensed bar and a community garden.

During its construction, which started last February, the team were faced with a number of challenges including unearthing the original Norwich Gaol foundations.

Funding was also an issue but a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund helped make the project possible.

Chief fundraiser Naomi Perowne said: “To this day it is a miracle to me that we gathered the funds for the Narthex, despite all the odds.

“I am endlessly grateful to all those grant funders, organisations and dedicated individuals who have helped us achieve our goal. In a sense, this is the end of one journey for me, but very much the beginning of a new direction for the cathedral, during which it will meet and welcome many new people.”

The building work was carried out by a number of contractors including John Youngs and many of the materials used were locally sourced such as terracotta for the flooring.

The building also boasts eco-friendly features including a water recirculation system.

At the end of last year, Norwich Cathedral opened its new Hostry which also provides a welcoming and hospitality space for visitors.

The new Narthex is open to members of the public from Tuesday to Saturday. It is normally closed on Mondays and is used by the church on Sundays.

For more information about the Narthex, go to www.sjbcathedral.co.uk or call 01603 724380.

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