Re-Roofing the North West Tower

Standing either side of the West Door, the North West and South West Towers create a grand entrance to the Cathedral. However this has not always been the case.

The original North West Tower collapsed in 1636; after making good at that time, it was not rebuilt to its former glory until some 260 years later, completing in 1901. Home to the Chapel of St Michael (also known as The Sailors' Chapel) it contains a memorial to those who have lost their lives at sea and have no known grave.

As is the case with such roofs, it had been subject to much minor repair and patching during its lifetime, however much of the original 1901 lead covering and structure remained. In 2012 the Cathedral's five yearly survey (the Quinquennial inspection), identified that water ingress was becoming a significant problem, leading to damp staining and suspected hidden water damage to the timber and masonry beneath. The survey concluded that the covering needed replacing within a couple of years.

Working 33 meters above the city, a team of traditional craftsmen braved all the British winter could throw at them to undertake this work.

The project comprised:

  • Repair and replacement of the underlying timber work
  • Brickwork to reinforce the structure
  • Digging out existing guttering to improve drainage
  • Recovering the roof with new lead
  • Replacing the hatch to create a safer and easier access to the roof
  • Installation of safety wires to allow secure and safe external maintenance

Completing in 2015, this important project to create a watertight roof enabled the subsequent installation of the magnificent, and recently restored, 1910 Somers Clarke Reredos and refurbishment of the chapel below it. This would simply not have been possible without the successful work to the roof above.

The chapel was re-dedicated as the Sailors' Chapel at a special Evensong service on Sea Sunday (9th July) in 2017.

This Trust funded re-roofing project was enabled through the generosity of the Trust's supporters and a grant from the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repair Fund.

north west tower
north west tower
north west tower