FOR the past five years or so it’s been closed because of safety concerns caused by concrete cancer and salt damp.
But with a $1-million program of repairs almost finished, and with a bicentenary dedication service to be held next month, the imposing bell tower of Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral will soon be reopened to the public.
Hosting the Newcastle Herald on Monday, the Dean of Newcastle, Reverend Stephen Williams, said the cathedral was a public building and the view was there to be shared with everyone.
As shown by the accompanying photograph, and our online coverage, the view from the top is simply spectacular. Dean Williams hopes that the tower climb – some of it up a narrow spiral staircase – will become a noted tourist attraction, with the income from a likely donation entry fee helping to defray the significant costs of maintaining the cathedral.
This year, 2017, marks the bicentenary of the original convict church built on the site. As Joan Murray’s parish history, The Vision Splendid, recounts, the foundation stone was laid on January 1, 1817, and the first service held almost a year later on Christmas Day.
Although the original church was replaced with the cathedral, dedicated in 1902, it took another 70-odd years to build the tower, which was begun in 1977 and finished in 1979.
Dean Williams said the bicentenary celebrations were scheduled for Saturday, May 27, and Sunday, May 28, with guided tours of the tower across both days.
He said the roof of the tower had been newly waterproofed, and a clear glass and metal safety railing installed around the outside of the walking area for safety reasons. The inside of the tower had been “like a sauna” but improved ventilation – including motorised windows kept automatically open unless it rains – should keep the brick-work dry.
Dean Williams paid tribute to those whose donations covered the cost, especially one “anonymous donor” who footed much of the bill.
“But in the end the cathedral belongs to the city,” Dean Williams said.