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Cathedral tower is taking shape

PUBLISHED: 23:21 21 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:18 24 February 2010

HIDDEN beneath swathes of plastic sheeting and cocooned in a scaffolding shell, one of Suffolk's most impressive building projects of recent years is slowly taking shape.

HIDDEN beneath swathes of plastic sheeting and cocooned in a scaffolding shell, one of Suffolk's most impressive building projects of recent years is slowly taking shape.

Perched 70ft above the patchworked skyline of Bury St Edmunds, stonemasons and builders working on the town's unique Cathedral Tower scheme are entering the final stages of the painstaking project.

The officials masterminding the build admit the 18 months of labour which has taken place since Prince Charles laid the tower's first stone in 2001 has been slow, but now feel the project has turned the corner.

Work constructing the tower's remaining 80 feet, will now accelerate to meet all public expectations, giving East Anglia a landmark of which it can be truly proud when the covers surrounding the structure are peeled back early next year.

"Things are going really well. This is unique, as we are not aware of any other towers being built utilising Gothic design or the traditional methods and materials we are using here," said Horry Parsons, team leader for Bluestone Plc, whose workers are turning the ambitious project into a reality.

"Progress so far on the bottom section on the tower has been slow, as we have had to work around an old concrete core built in the 1960s. Enclosing that existing structure has involved very detailed and accurate stone cutting.

"But we think we have now faced all the technical problems which may crop up, and will simply be repeating things we have already learnt as we move into the second phase.

By the time the tower is complete, it will be surrounded by around 20 miles of scaffolding - a testament, workers said, to the scale of the project.

"I have been involved with this for nearly seven years, and it is fascinating," said Euan Allen, Millennium Project Co-ordinator.

"It is a great privilege to be connected with something that is going to last literally a thousand years.

"This is not the next dome, it will be a huge landmark. I know the people of Suffolk have had to wait a long time, but when they do see the tower it will be something they will be really proud of.

Funding for the £10 million project has been secured from the Millennium Commission, with a bequest from a former architect at the site also helping make the scheme possible.

The project is both running to time and budget - a different story from the previous tower build in the 1970s, which was halted when money simply ran out.

Hugh Mathew, an architect who worked on the cathedral during the project 30 years ago, yesterday returned to the site to watch a dream he once thought of as impossible coming true.

"People really have no idea about the amount of work which has gone into producing these plans," he said. "There has been so much attention to detail.

"It is an enormous pleasure for me to have had a hand in the designing of the interior of the tower.

"It thrills me to bits to see it taking place here. I never thought this was possible."


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