Quenin Gate access restored
Canterbury Cathedral is delighted to announce that its governing Chapter have reconsidered their decision to automate Quenin Gate. Providing staffing can be found, the Gate will normally be open from 7am-6pm daily for anyone attending worship or for all those with a valid Cathedral Pass.
Outside of these hours, access via Quenin Gate will only be for Precincts residents who have specific gate passes to open and close the gate electronically. For special events or services, the Cathedral will seek to provide extra staffing so that Quenin Gate can remain open, building in the additional costs to that service or event. This decision is likely to cost the Cathedral up to about another £50k in annual costs to cover staffing but we hope it also signals a willingness to try and respond to the local needs of people here.
The Dean of Canterbury, The Very Revd Dr David Monteith, said ‘I arrived just before Christmas and have listened to many people concerned that Quenin Gate was not as accessible as once was the case. We have reconsidered matters. We got it wrong. We didn’t engage enough with stakeholders at the time and the pressure to make swift decisions in the light of Covid when our income disappeared led to something of a hasty decision which then took time to implement. We are also sorry for the ways in which the King’s School were frequently blamed for a decision that was made by the Cathedral.’
UPDATE - 17 May 2023: We are pleased to report that two candidates have accepted the job of gate security officer. There are DBS checks that are required to be completed before they can start. Our desire is to open Quenin Gate as soon as possible, which now depends on how long the checks take. We will keep you informed.
The Precincts are already freely open to everyone daily from 5pm-9pm via Christ Church Gate. We have a Kids Go Free offer, and many local people can sign up to our Cathedral Pass Scheme (a £6 admin fee covers the cost of administration and printing for a five-year pass – the equivalent of just 10p a month) see Cathedral Pass.
The Dean went on to say ‘nothing gives me greater joy than to see people enjoying this amazing place. I long for it to be ever more open but I have to balance the tough realities of income generation alongside increasing accessibility. We’re doing all this when visitor numbers continue to be reduced and where many of our regular language schools have now stopped coming. All this impacts so many communities and businesses and so we are ever more committed to attracting more visitors to our city because we enjoy meeting them and we need them for our city to thrive more once again’.
Responding to the changes to Precincts access, Sean Sayers and Phil Poole from the Canterbury Cathedral Precincts Access Group said ‘It is wonderful news that the Dean and Chapter have listened to the concerns of the local community and responded so positively. This will inaugurate a new and friendlier relationship between the Cathedral and local community which we greatly welcome.’
What are the changes to Precincts access?
Hopefully by May 2023, pending staff recruitment, anyone attending worship or who has a valid Cathedral Pass will be able to access the Cathedral Precincts via Quenin Gate. This Gate will be open daily from 7am-6pm subject to staffing.
Once the current construction work at Mint Yard Gate is complete, Cathedral Pass holders and those who regularly attend worship will also be able to use this route to access the Precincts. A precise date is still to be determined by the contractors.
Those with access requirements, and eligible groups such as Diocesan House staff and King’s School members, will also be able to access the Cathedral Precincts via Quenin Gate and Mint Yard Gate.
After staffed hours, the Quenin Gate will normally function electronically for those residents of The Precincts and others who have gate passes (not the same as Cathedral Passes). At Mint Yard Gate, access after 6pm will also only be possible for Precincts residents and others who have gate passes.
Quenin Gate and Mint Yard Gate remaining open until 6pm matches the time that Postern Gate already closes with staffing rotas. By limiting access after 6pm to just Christ Church Gate, our Constables can more effectively safeguard the site within our existing staffing resource. The Cathedral’s Chapter have to take a balanced approach addressing access, security, safety of people and place within the overall staffing resources which are currently possible. This is the best we can currently manage and we will keep it under review.
If needed, these gates will also be accessible for major events held at the Cathedral, such as concerts and graduations, with extra staffing costs forming part of the cost of the event or service.
The majority of people, including paying visitors, will continue to enter and exit via Christ Church Gate, the historic main entrance to the Cathedral Precincts.
Postern Gate is for vehicle access to The Precincts. For safety, we ask that Cathedral Pass-holders and members of the public do not use this entrance for pedestrian access.
The Cathedral’s Green Court and Dark Entry on the North side of The Precincts will also be open to Cathedral Pass holders, members of the congregation, and paying visitors, whilst recognising the needs for care and privacy as these spaces are residential and have many school buildings too.
Why the change to Quenin Gate access, and why now?
The Cathedral’s governing Chapter took the decision to close Quenin Gate in response to the collapse of the Cathedral’s revenue during the Covid pandemic. Faced with substantial financial pressures, Chapter felt that, amongst a range of other changes, automating the Gate and restricting access via this route was the most financially-viable way to maintain the safety and security of The Precincts within the Cathedral’s reduced resources.
We accept that we communicated this decision and the reasons for it very poorly and that, along with the sudden implementation of the closure and a lack of advance notice, this lead to misinformation and caused understandable upset and anger for local residents. We apologise unreservedly for this.
We are also sorry to the King’s School who faced unfair public criticism as a result of this decision taken by the Cathedral.
Canterbury Cathedral is and always has been an integral part of the city and our local community, and we want to be a welcoming space for everyone. We are working to repair relationships that have been strained, and permitting greater access to The Cathedral Precincts is part of this.
Have Safeguarding issues played any role in the discussions?
Both the King’s School and the Cathedral’s Chapter are mindful of the importance of safeguarding the wellbeing of all those in our care and on our site, especially children and young people alongside vulnerable adults. This means Safeguarding is a proper concern in every Cathedral discussion. The Cathedral constables are available for support and advice and we ask members of the public to alert us to any behaviours which seem odd in any way that could lead to harm.
What practical changes will there be?
The automated barrier at Quenin Gate will remain but will be inactive whilst the entrance is staffed by a Cathedral employee between 7.00am and 6.00pm.
Closure signs in Green Court and The Dark Entry will be removed, and this area of The Precincts will be open to paying visitors, Cathedral Pass holders, and members of our congregations. Additional lighting and consideration of security measures are being put in place to improve public access.
The majority of visitors who pay at the Cathedral Visitor Centre will continue to enter and exit via Christ Church Gate. It is important that paying visitors are directed in and out of this gate.
Who can access the Cathedral Precincts for free?
- Anyone attending a service or coming in to the Cathedral to pray
- Cathedral Pass holders
- The Friends of Canterbury Cathedral
- Becket Patrons
- Children (under 17): Children go free when accompanied by a paying adult or a Cathedral Pass holder. (Max 2 children per paying adult; does not apply to group bookings or school visits). Children must be accompanied at all times.
- Local university students: Students studying full-time at Canterbury Christ Church University, University of Kent, or University for the Creative Arts enjoy free entry with their student ID.
- Evening entry: between 5pm and 9pm daily, anyone can enjoy free access to the Precincts. The Cathedral church closes to visitors at 5pm (last admission 4pm). Our Choral Evensong service takes place each day from 5.30pm-6.15pm, and all our welcome to attend.
Do I need a Cathedral Pass or to pay if I’m attending a service of worship?
No. There is never a charge to attend a service, and you do not need to have a Cathedral Pass. Our services are open to all, and everyone is welcome.
What is the Cathedral Pass?
Our Cathedral Pass allows locals to enjoy unlimited visits to the Cathedral and Precincts for the equivalent of just 10p per month. Local residents, those who work in the old city of Canterbury, and members of our congregation are amongst those eligible to apply for a Pass.
Pass holders who sign up to our mailing list are also kept up to date with all the latest information on events and activities at the Cathedral, often before general release.
Why can’t the Cathedral and Precincts be open to everyone for free all the time?
It costs over £20,000 per day to keep the Cathedral open, and we typically receive no funding from Government or the Church of England. Visitor income is our main source of revenue, and without this it would be impossible to safely maintain the Cathedral and to keep it open.
Free entry is available for many groups, including Cathedral Pass holders, worshippers, children, and local students (see above) - and anyone can enjoy free evening access to The Precincts, but this does incur costs for the Cathedral. For example, the cost of having a permanent staff presence at Quenin Gate will be approx. £50k per annum. This is money that we will now additionally need to raise.
Does the city own the stepped access to Quenin Gate?
No, the gate, walls and steps for this area of the Precincts are owned by the Cathedral, and we have responsibility for them.
Is there a public right of way to The Precincts?
No. There is not, and never has been a public right of way or right of access to the Cathedral or The Precincts. The Cathedral has always exercised the right to close its Precincts and gates and to limit public access when required, and there has never been constant, continuous, or uninterrupted public access.
The Cathedral and Precincts are also a burial ground, and it is legally impossible to establish a public right of way in a burial ground.