Westminster Cathedral has opened a toilet block with disabled access in response to the many requests from visitors.
This will be the first time in the Cathedral’s history that street level toilets, which include a baby-changing room, have been made available to the public.
The building has been built on the former car park on Morpeth Terrace. The facilities will be accessible from inside the Cathedral, during Cathedral opening hours.
Special attention had to be paid to the materials used in construction. The Historic Churches Committee ruled that the bricks for building the toilet block had to match the 12.5 million handmade bricks belonging to the Cathedral. This required great attention to detail.
The original bricks were an unusual size compared to modern standards. There were also two colours to the bricks - red and blue. Every layer of brickwork, as well as the band of stone, and window sills, needed to match the main Cathedral exterior in keeping with the original design.
To add to the challenge, the heritage mortar mixes used, were slow to set and very temperature sensitive. Modern mortar takes two days to set, while heritage mortar takes 28 days. The building work was planned for the warmer months, but because of the delays in getting the right kind of brick, the building work was not carried out until the winter.
Neil Fairbairn, Facilities manager at the Cathedral, said “Thanks be to God, we had a very warm winter with very few frost days. We built scaffolding around the block, covered it with giant plastic sheets to form a large tent, and kept heaters on the inside to keep the mortar from freezing. The toilet block will serve the public for years to come. We are sure it will be of great benefit to worshippers and visitors.”