Meet you at the Fratry – Work is Underway

The Fratry extension and refurbishment at Carlisle Cathedral is nearing the halfway point in its completion. 

Cubby Construction started work on the 3 million pound project back in December last year and with the work going as planned it looks like the building should be completed by the end of the year.

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It’s an exciting project, not only for the Cathedral but for Carlisle as a whole as the new facilities will open up the precinct to an assortment of events it was not previously suited for.

“The Fratry will be much more than something for the Cathedral,” explained Head of Visitor Services Craig Carruthers. “There really isn’t a venue like this in Carlisle at the minute.  The development of the Fratry is about creating a fantastic space in the heart of the city.  We have a lot of exhibitions, concerts and cultural events we would love to put together but the Cathedral and the precinct was not always the most suitable place to hold them. This will allow us to do so much more.”

So what exactly is the Fratry?

The original medieval purpose was as the dining hall for the Ausgustinian Canons who founded the Cathedral but over the past 500 years it has served numerous roles including a kitchen, place of worship, arsenal for the King’s Army, Civil War storeroom, chapter house, a brewery and granary, barn, library and finally a cafe.

“Our project aims to bring this hugely under-used building to life,” said Craig. “This project intends to make the Fratry more accessible which has been very difficult previously in such an old building.  The cafe was located in the medieval undercroft in the basement but with stone stairs and no lift access there were many issues that needed to be dealt with.”

A revamped Fratry will bring the Cathedral precinct back to life.  Feilden Fowles architects have created a wonderful Gothic-inspired glass pavilion that will provide a modern and welcoming space for visitors.

The Fratry Hall contains the library upstairs which currently houses a fine collection of 17th – 18th century volumes.  The hall will be refurbished to become an event space for arts, music and cultural events.  It will also be able to be booked for private events.

The undercroft below will be used for teaching and learning activities, the new heritage learning centre will be used by schools and families to run workshops and projects about the heritage of the cathedral and the city.

Visitors will also be able to enjoy the view through the entire length of the undercroft and see the six vaulted bays.

Craig said: “There really isn’t a city centre venue like this in Carlisle. And this development will create a fantastic space in the heart of the city that everyone can enjoy.  The brand new café will create a meeting point and the Fratry project will realise our vision for the Cathedral as a place of discovery and celebration.  The Cathedral area is a lovely peaceful place to spend time and the development of the Fratry will encourage people to do just that.”


The project could only have taken place thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund which granted 2 million pounds.  The remainder was raised by the Friends of Carlisle Cathedral, various grant making trusts and generous donations by the public.

When the new year roles around the Fratry project should be completed and the precinct will be revitalised.  Without doubt this will prove to be the most significant development at Carlisle Cathedral in living memory.

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