A HISTORIC £36-million project to create a new cloister at Blackburn Cathedral (above) and an adjoining public square for the town, is on the verge of completion.
Cathedral Court — due to open in March — will be the first complete ecclesiastical cloister since that of Peterborough Cathedral in 1525. It will include residences for cathedral staff, clergy, and scholars; a refectory; a library; enclosed Cloister Garth; conference rooms; offices; and an underground car park.
A new public square and gardens, a Premier Inn Hotel, and an office block will adjoin the listed church buildings to complete what will be known as the Cathedral Quarter. A bus and rail interchange, to provide easier access to the cathedral grounds, is also under construction.
Work on the new town centre began in April 2013. Despite being an estimated £2 million over budget, and five months overdue, the priest in charge of the Blackburn Cathedral Maintenance programme, Canon Andrew Hindley, is pleased with the development. He first imagined the project in 1998, inspired by the former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple, who, when he was the Bishop of Manchester, recommended that Blackburn Parish Church should be the cathedral of a new diocese.
“This is the most challenging but satisfying project I have ever worked on,” Canon Hindley said. “In a sense, it is my life’s work.” The cloister will feature a central raised lawn and stones from surrounding graves. A glass corridor, linking the new buildings to the cathedral, will be named the Temple Gallery.
The £6.1-million estimate has risen to £8 million to include professional fees and a £400,000 overspend on materials. “We have had technical challenges, problems with the weather and material supply, but we could not afford to skimp,” Canon Hindley said.
The project is being funded by regeneration grants from the Homes and Communities Agency, and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, in partnership with the cathedral. The community have contributed more than £1.5 million through fund-raising and donations.