Sheffield Cathedral / by Heather Sutton

Cathedral Church of St Marie, Sheffield

Client

Cathedral Church of St Marie, Sheffield/Diocese of Hallam

Main Contractor

Maysand

Architect

Buttress Fuller Alsop Williams

Overview

The historic Cathedral Church of St Marie in Sheffield is an iconic building in the Steel city. Constructed at a cost of £10,562 12s 2d and completed in 1850, the Catholic Cathedral is a grade II listed building. Damaged during the Second World War, its stained glass windows were removed and stored in the nearby Nunnery Colliery for safe keeping.
Ironically, flooding of the mine left the ornate windows covered in mud and drawings for the restoration of the windows was lost. But the glass was retrieved and re-fitted in 1947, and since then the Cathedral has undergone a number of further alterations and restoration projects. The latest featured major works to replace the stone floor with a new under-floor heating system and the installation of modern lighting and audio systems.

Restorative work was also carried out to a number of the church’s most striking internal features, while a number of precious effigies – including one of Cathedral founder Father Pratt – were carefully re-located. And the crowning glory was the erection of a new ‘Planar’ glass canopy, spanning the whole of the roof at the cathedral’s West End, giving the entrance to the Norfolk Chambers a striking focal point. Now finished, the Cathedral hopes to attract more worshippers and visitors and also become a music venue for the city.

The project

The £1.1million, 11-month-long project undertaken by restoration and conservation specialists Maysand restored the cathedral to its former glory and also equipped it better for 21st-century worship in a carefully crafted combination of old and new. The new stone floor was laid on a base of limecrete, a more environmentally friendly and breathable material than traditional cement-based concrete.

Delivering the particular angles of the glass canopy to the architect’s brief also presented a unique challenge for the Maysand team. And as well as over-seeing its own workforce, Maysand operated hand-in-hand with a group of Polish craftsmen who were responsible for the restoration of a number of the Cathedral’s internal treasures. These included ceiling roses, which were removed for gold leaf painting before being replaced in exactly the same position according to a numbered grid to maintain the same appearance to the ornate roof. During the project, seven rare 15th-century alabaster carvings depicting the life of Christ were also discovered and are now on display in the Cathedral.

“All of the different aspects of the project made it one of our biggest, size-wise,” said Maysand site manager Alan Jones. “It also made it one of the most challenging and rewarding. In a religious building you have to respect what’s there and work in a sympathetic way to produce something that will maintain and enhance its history and hopefully stand for centuries to come. Since we finished we have had a lot of positive feedback, both from the church and people of Sheffield.”

The reaction

Cathedral Dean Father Chris Posluszny said: “Maysand took on overseeing a major project which included working with many other companies and individuals, including businesses from Poland. Maysand proved to be very able to deal with the complex nature of the project and with adjustments that had to be made after work had begun. The success of the work undertaken is supported by the positive comments from parishioners and numerous visitors to the Cathedral. The Cathedral has very much been brought back to life and made ready for use in the 21st century.”