Fratry, Carlisle Cathedral
Feilden Fowles has completed the transformation of the Grade I-listed medieval Fratry at Carlisle Cathedral – the most significant physical intervention on the cathedral site for more than 150 years. A new entrance to the refurbished Fratry hall and undercroft has been created, reached through a newly built red sandstone entrance pavilion and link structure connecting old and new. The project, completed following a long gestation (the cathedral has been working on it for 15 years, and the architects for the last six), gives the Fratry renewed purpose and welcomes the public for the first time, enriching the cathedral’s benefits to the wider community.
The pavilion is located to the north west of the Fratry, on the site of the former west range of the original Augustinian priory cloister, destroyed during the Reformation; the lot had become dead, windswept land, serving only as a thoroughfare. Positioned 90 degrees from the Fratry, the pavilion and its green fringe delineate a new space and aim to create the atmosphere of the cloister that inspired the design. The pavilion reintroduces a reflective and sheltered public space at the heart of the cathedral precinct and city.
The elevations of the pavilion are inspired by Gothic arches found across the cathedral precinct, and in particular, the western window of the Fratry. The dropped arch profile fans out to a simple rectilinear leading edge, which has a refinement reminiscent of the Perpendicular Gothic tracery found in the east window of the cathedral. The resolution of the curved and perpendicular forms creates a subtle play of light and shadow across the sandstone elevations.
The design balances high-tech innovation (CNC-cut stone, 3D and 2D modelling) with low-tech solutions (specialist hand carving) to enhance the historic precinct and create a pleasant space to dwell. The solidity of the pavilion’s stonework and contrasting transparency of the glazed bays formed by the arches provide visitors clear views to the cathedral and the surrounding listed buildings. The new welcome area and public café forms a dedicated space for the clergy to greet visitors, and enables the cathedral to engage with more people in new ways and transform its teaching and learning activities.
Entry to the Fratry is now through a lightweight, fully-glazed bronze structure accessed via stairs or lift at the southern end of the pavilion. The slender triangular stantions and diagrid ceiling were designed in collaboration with engineers Structure Workshop and inspired by the stone ceiling motifs in the Fratry pulpit.
The Fratry project also marks the opening of the existing hall to all for the first time – to visit the library and attend events. Both the Fratry hall and undercroft have been de-cluttered and opened up by removing partitions and barriers subdividing the spaces. The refurbished undercroft has been opened up to enable views down its full length so the space may be used for teaching and learning activities with local schools and communities.