Roof with a view: Helter skelter installed in nave of Norwich Cathedral

A cathedral has installed a 55ft-tall helter skelter in its nave so that visitors can enjoy a better view of its ornate roof.

The Rev Canon Andy Bryant, of Norwich Cathedral, said the idea came to him when he was visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

He said: “I had the slightly risky thought of ‘I know this is amazing, but actually the ceiling at Norwich Cathedral is every bit as wonderful’.”

The helter skelter will be at Norwich Cathedral until 18 August


The helter skelter will be at Norwich Cathedral until 18 August.

Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

The Rev Bryant added: “We have one of the greatest collections of medieval roof bosses anywhere in northern Europe. The trouble is they are so high up that most people never get a chance to really appreciate them.

“And so was born the idea, could we get people up higher to these roof bosses and so appreciate that they are exquisite art as they are the most beautiful pieces of stone carving but also the story that’s captured within them which is the story of the Bible.”

The funfair ride has a viewing platform at 40ft, giving people a closer look at the cathedral’s 69ft-high roof.

Roof bosses are found at the points where the ribs of the cathedral roof join. Norwich Cathedral’s date back to the mid-15th century when a new roof was built after a fire.

Choristers from Norwich Cathedral take a ride on the helter skelter


Choristers from Norwich Cathedral take a ride on the helter skelter. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

The Rev Bryant said there was a “serious intent” behind the Seeing It Differently project, and he hoped it would attract more visitors.

He said: “We all are always looking to broaden the appeal of our cathedrals because some people can feel that cathedrals are slightly exclusive, they’re for a particular type of person.

“We want everybody to feel that they can come in and enjoy it.”

The helter skelter comes after Rochester Cathedral in Kent installed a crazy golf course in its nave.

The Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Jane Hedges, said: “I think amongst our own congregation there were people who asked questions about it, but once Andy had explained the rationale I think people were completely converted to the idea.”

Ray Stevens, 58, from Peterborough, came to visit the cathedral. He said: “I was surprised but I think it’s a great thing.” He added: “It’s a novel idea, good on them for having the courage.”

But Greetja Boedeltja, 58, from the Netherlands, said it was a “shame” the helter skelter was in front of a large stained glass window that she wanted to see.

The helter skelter will be at the cathedral until 18 August. It costs £2 per ride, with funds covering the cost of hire from a funfair company and any surplus going into cathedral initiatives.

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