Bristol’s Clifton cathedral has just been refreshed by architecture and heritage practice Purcell. Photography: Phil Boorman
Brutalist cathedral in the UK opens to the public following renovation
Architecture buffs might recognise the brutalist cathedral in Clifton, Bristol by its distinctive, irregular, elongated hexagonal floorplan. What many don’t know however, is that the iconic building has been suffering from water leakages for years, due to its large, striking lead roof not being entirely watertight. Enter architecture and heritage experts Purcell, who have just unveiled their careful repair work to the building’s historical fabric, rendering the cathedral fully watertight for the first time ever.
The structure, also known as Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of SS. Peter and Paul in Clifton, Bristol, was originally constructed between 1969-73 to a design by Ron Weeks of the Percy Thomas Partnership, and is a Grade II* listed monument.
Due to the building’s sensitive and historical nature, Purcell worked closely with all relevant parties and the Lead Sheet Association to ensure the greatest care is taken when carrying out the repair works. The latter was heavily involved because the pitched roof required the majority of the works – some 86 tons of replacement lead. It was the largest lead roofing project in Britain at the time of its creation.
Making a key architectural monument fully operational again, while safeguarding it for the future, Purcell also aimed to respect its characteristic original style and concrete aesthetic. ‘Our conviction was for the building to become watertight, and safe and open for use, but also not to lose any of its rigour and quality as a superb exponent of the late brutalist era’, says the company’s partner in Bristol, Clifford Martin. ‘The works have been undertaken with the intention to both repair and protect the building, and to magnify and celebrate its original design and detail.’
And there’s one more twist to this success story. A condition of the project’s funding was that it opened up parts of the building to the public that has previously been inaccessible, such as the gallery over the iconic baptistery, and a staircase that had previously been sealed off. This way, visitors can enjoy the structure both as a monument and for its religious services, in the best possible way. §
Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of SS. Peter and Paul in Clifton is now fully watertight for the first time. Photography: Phil Boorman
The building was originally constructed between 1969–73 to a design by Ron Weeks of the Percy Thomas Partnership. Photography: Phil Boorman
Today, the concrete composition of the Clifton cathedral Grade II* listed. Photography: Phil Boorman
The space is well known for its fairly modest, ‘theatre-like’ composition. Photography: Phil Boorman
Purcell took care to maintain the structure’s concrete aesthetic. Photography: Phil Boorman
The necessary works prevent further deterioration to the building fabric. Photography: Phil Boorman
The main space features a distinctive irregular, elongated hexagonal plan. Photography: Phil Boorman
A condition of the project’s funding was that it opened up parts of the building to the public. Photography: Phil Boorman