ILLUMINATING APPROACH SHEDS NEW LIGHT ON DURHAM CATHEDRAL

30 August 2007

A bespoke chandelier lighting scheme from specialist consultants at Gradus Lighting has shed new light on the decorative features within Durham Cathedral’s Prior’s Hall, whilst enhancing its functionality as a public meeting space.

Constructed between 1093 and 1133, Durham Cathedral is considered to be England’s greatest Norman building. The Prior’s Hall is a 19th Century room with medieval ante-room, formed within part of the monastic buildings attached to the Cathedral church. It is used for meetings, lectures and conferences by members of the public as well as church committees, and is decorated with framed panels of 18th Century oriental wallpaper.

Since the 1980s, Prior’s Hall has been lit by a single brass chandelier suspended in the centre of the room. Four metal halide fittings were also positioned in each corner, constructed from Oak riddel posts originally located around an altar. The chandelier provided insufficient task lighting and the uplighters were not only ineffective because of the dark colouring of the ceiling but also threw unfortunate splashes of light diagonally across the wallpaper panels. In addition, a modernised oil lamp was unequal to the task of lighting the large adjoining ante-room.

Gradus Lighting, in collaboration with the Cathedral Architect, devised a unique solution based on the refurbishment of the existing chandelier, which now features an upper brass globe with three spotlights to direct light onto the walls. The new design was then replicated to produce four further brass chandeliers, strategically positioned throughout the Hall. As the building is Grade I listed, new wiring runs were best avoided, although some new cables were taken to existing but unused ceiling roses and run at high level on top of roof beams to serve the additional chandeliers.

The new lighting scheme was part of a wider renovation project, as Cathedral Architect Christopher Downs explains:

“Prior’s Hall was last redecorated in the 1980s and was beginning to look a little tired and dated. We had also recognised that if the Hall was to be offered for public use, we needed to offer decent facilities and the lighting was an essential element of this.

“When we approached Gradus, we felt that pendant lighting would be the right way to light the spaces and that the existing fine Flemish brass chandelier was an excellent starting point. Chandeliers would provide good general lighting and create a comfortable working and meeting environment, as well as being attractive features in their own right, in keeping with the setting. They would also offer a degree of continuity between the Victorian Hall and more gothic feel of the ante-room. However, we also wanted to highlight the oriental wallpaper panels in the main Hall together with the portrait and funerary hatchments displayed in the ante-room, so we tasked Gradus with developing a cost-effective solution that would satisfy these requirements.

“Gradus transformed our initial idea into a practical reality and have succeeded beyond all our expectations. Without their product knowledge and the symbiotic working relationship we developed, we would not have been able to achieve such a stunning end result. The Cathedral Canons and authorities are delighted and the new lighting scheme has made a sympathetic and subtle contribution to the architectural quality of the rooms concerned.”

Rory Marr of Gradus Lighting adds: “Lighting was a vital part of this redecoration project as it played such a specific role, both functionally and aesthetically. This is a fine example of how Gradus can work in close partnership with individual clients to develop bespoke solutions.”

Durham Cathedral was inscribed as one of Britain’s first World Heritage Sites and was voted the nation’s best-loved building in a 2001 nationwide poll. The historic shrine of St Cuthbert, the Cathedral is also the seat of the Bishop of Durham and is maintained and restored by a permanent team of 17 craftsmen.

Gradus Lighting is a two-part business offering specialist solutions for contract environments. A range of low voltage LED safety and decorative lighting systems is available, which is used extensively in leisure sector applications such as cinemas, casinos, nightclubs and cruise liners. Gradus also offers a lighting design solutions service, employing a wide spectrum of lighting solutions to create effects tailored to individual applications. For further information, contact Gradus Lighting on 01625 428922.