Cathedral tower set for Royal unveiling

THE Prince of Wales could be returning to East Anglia along with the Archbishop of Canterbury under ambitious plans to grandly unveil a £12.3million tower set to change a Suffolk skyline forever.

THE Prince of Wales could be returning to East Anglia along with the Archbishop of Canterbury under ambitious plans to grandly unveil a £12.3million tower set to change a Suffolk skyline forever.

And an appeal to complete St Edmundsbury Cathedral's tower in Bury St Edmunds has received a massive boost from Prince Charles – who has visited the building on three occasions – after the royal gave a "very generous" but confidential donation.

Prince Charles, patron of the multi-million pound bid to complete the only unfinished cathedral in the country, witnessed the project in July and exclusively told the EADT of his intentions to return.

Now project chiefs are hoping to lure the future King and other luminaries, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, for an official opening of the 150ft tower next year.

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Millennium project co-ordinator Euan Allen said: "We have a number of plans for the official opening. "We will be putting things planned for this year on hold for when we are ready in the spring of 2005.

"I very much hope the Prince of Wales will come and I imagine he will. We are also hoping the Archbishop of Canterbury will also come and visit, although possibly on separate occasions.

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"To have the continued support of the Prince of Wales is an enormous confidence boost to the whole project."

The Very Reverend James Atwell, Dean of the Cathedral, added: "The Prince has been very generous to the appeal in terms of his interest, time and money.

"The donation is very welcome and I am confident we can reach our target and complete the project.

"The new donation from the Prince of Wales has given us a boost and I hope others will follow his example."

With just 40ft left to be built, work is expected to be completed by the end of the year although team leader HorryParsons admitted the project was currently at a painstaking stage with delicate work taking place to allow windows to be fitted in March.

Equally vital is the continuing fundraising appeal, which still has to find £100,000 from supporters to enable all the work to be carried out.

Bosses admitted work was running slightly behind schedule but said this was to incorporate further improvements – with cloisters linking the cathedral building to the Cathedral Centre, a decorated vaulted ceiling and stone lining the tower.

This became possible when the Millennium Commission made a further £550,000 available to the project, which now has to be matched by local funding, which included a donation from the Stephen Dykes Bower Trust set up when the former Cathedral architect died in 1994.

Mr Parsons said: "I feel we are on schedule as the programme has been forever changing.

"All building jobs of this nature have to be flexible. We have been very fortunate to add a substantial amount of work to the original programme – but this has had an impact on the whole completion date."

Mr Allen admitted the project team felt some pressure to finish as building work enters its fifth year but admitted the pressure was self-imposed.

He said: "This is a crucial year and we are at a crucial stage. We are under pressure to finish as this has been going on for some time and we need to draw it to a close.

"But there is still a lot of work to do and we will not be cutting on the quality of the work."

Referring to recent comments about the amount of scaffolding in evidence in a town preparing for Magna Carta celebrations later this year, Mr Allen added: "When the scaffolding comes down, we know people will think it has all been worth it.

"The Magna Carta is a very important occasion but the celebrations and the work on the tower are not linked."

As dedicated craftsman continue patiently making precise improvements 150ft in the sky as the rest of a Suffolk market town obliviously goes about its day, one man beams with pride as he witnesses the transformation of the project first hand.

Commenting on the ten-year project, The Very Rev James Atwellsaid: "It is tremendously exciting to be the Dean at this moment.

"As the county cathedral, I hope it will be a symbol for the whole of Suffolk and a focus for the historic core of Bury.

"Things that enrich the project, like stone lining and cloisters, will enhance the visitor experience enormously.

"This is a unique project, the result of which will inspire people for centuries to come. Cathedrals are about pushing the boundaries and making people feel a bit stunned by what they see.

"Every time I come and look at the tower, they seem to be braking new ground."

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