Canford supplies Durham Cathedral install

Wednesday, 29 June 2005

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UK - Canford has supplied Durham Cathedral with the equipment necessary to bring their sound reinforcement system up to date. The work was carried out by the Cathedral's own Clerk of Works, Bob Mathews and his team. The Cathedral is a World Heritage Site built in the late 11th and early 12th centuries and as such the installation required special care and attention to detail.

It is freely admitted by those at Durham, that for many years, their speech reinforcement system in the Cathedral has needed updating. Unfortunately, there have also been spots within the Cathedral where the spoken word has been unintelligible due to the intense natural reverberation caused by the Gothic architecture. It was decided that a new sound system should be installed to include new microphones, induction loops, video distribution, CCTV and control circuits associated with the upgrading of the speech reinforcement system and related facilities.

It took around two years of planning to finally initiate the works, with key decisions on loudspeaker locations and types being discussed and assessed by the various bodies and committees who are involved with the building. Naturally, the installation was carried out in such a way as to be sympathetic to the age and grandeur of the location. Work finally began on the cabling infrastructure in January this year.

Bob Mathews told us: "The cabling routes generally follow the heating pipes which were installed in 1966. Special ducting has been manufactured to enable the original flagging to be re-laid over the top, leaving nothing visibly out of place to the human eye."

He continued: "Whilst all of the ducts have been exposed by lifting the flagging, it has been possible to inspect all of the pipework and carry out repairs to joints and flanges of the pipes, prior to running in the new cabling for the sound system on special brackets. It has also been possible to carry out repairs and additions to the ring main sockets which have been fixed over the years but had some faults on them."

The installation has meant that large expanses of paving have had to be lifted up in the North and South Nave aisles, the North and South Transepts and across the Nave linking the Two Aisles. Mathews explained that every precaution was taken to minimize the disturbance. "This work has meant excess noise, dust and general disruption within the church and has been carried out by our own staff to ensure limited inconvenience to visitors, clergy and staff alike."

Mathews' and his team's efforts at continuity during the course of the work has meant that all services, concerts and other special events have carried on to their intended schedules.The cabling infrastructure is programmed to be complete in early June, and the next phase of the work, including the speakers and all the control equipment, cameras and associated items, is due to be complete by the end of September. When all of the work is complete we have been assured that the "best building in Britain" as described by the Chancellor of Durham University, Bill Bryson, will have a sound system to match its status.

(Lee Baldock)

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