View from NW corner
Adjacent to the Cathedral on its north side are the Cloisters, the Cathedral Hall and Cloister Hall. These are the remains of St Mary’s College, founded in 1365 by Bishop Houghton, to house a master and seven fellows, whose duties were to raise standards and serve the Cathedral. There are limited traces of the original Cloister which were already in ruins by the late c16 or early c17. However, a renovation of the Hall in 1965-6 and the recent recreation of the Cloisters themselves have provided the Cathedral with spaces with which to respond to the demands of the twenty first century.
Mainly built on the original footprint, the West and East ranges are of two storeys. The original West cloister was of two storeys, whereas the East cloister rose to three, the remains of which can be seen above the new range, in particular the beautiful arched window. These ranges house meeting rooms which enable the Cathedral to offer retreat, parish and education facilities.
The East and South cloister walks are enclosed and contain the new Treasury, and also lavatories and disabled facilities, and give access to the North side of the Cathedral.
The North and West cloister walkways are open, bounded by wooden arcading mirroring the stone tracery visible on the walls of St Mary’s Hall - part of the limited evidence remaining of the style of the original cloisters. The walkways are paved, with seating set into the walls of the west walk - providing quiet spaces which look onto the central grassed Cloister garth.
The north porch provides a covered entrance to the Cathedral and cloisters and protects the remaining medieval render on the wall above the north door. The new west wall and north porch fit seamlessly into the historic fabric of the Cathedral and are a testament to the skilled design and workmanship that has gone into the Cloisters scheme. The outer walls were constructed by our own local masons, Des Harries and David Howells, using locally quarried stone, and are equal in quality to any of the historic fabric. The stunning oak framing which bounds the walkways was provided by Peter McCurdy who was responsible for the framing of the new Globe Theatre in London. The effect of the whole scheme is breathtaking.
The design by Peter Bird of Caroe & Partners, the workmanship and the use of traditional skills in the new Cloister scheme have resulted in an inspired coexistence of old and new. This is no insipid pastiche but a bold and muscular contribution to the architecture of twentieth century Wales.