As I was growing up, day trips to historical buildings was a regular occurrence. My Mum loves English history and felt it important that my sister and I learn about the places and people who were key in our countries history. I say England rather than the UK or Britain, because we never ventured to Scotland, Wales or Ireland. Since becoming a part time wheelchair user, travelling anywhere has become a mission. I still love visiting historical buildings, but it’s much harder. Recently, my parents took me on a day trip to Lichfield Cathedral, so I thought a Lichfield Cathedral Accessibility Review was in order!
A medieval Cathedral, Lichfield is the only three-spired Cathedral in the UK. When we visited, Lichfield Cathedral it was home to some of the Staffordshire Hoard, displayed in St. Stephen’s Chapel.
Mum, Dan and I decided that my wheelchair (the heavy loan wheelchair), would be a better option to take to Lichfield Cathedral than my scooter. We felt that a wheelchair (manual or motorised) would be more socially acceptable than a mobility scooter and my parents were happy to push me when I needed them to.
The main door of Lichfield Cathedral from the inside
Having looked at the Lichfield Cathedral Accessibility page on their website (linked below) the Cathedral states that “Mobility scooters and manual wheelchairs are welcome within all areas of the Cathedral and Close.” It makes no mention of power chairs, but I would assume that this is just an oversight on how the above sentence is worded. I see no reason why a power chair would not be acceptable.
Despite mobility scooters being welcome in and around the Cathedral, I feel that we made the right choice in using to use the wheelchair, as will be explained below.
Lichfield Cathedral Accessibility: The Cathedral
I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible the Cathedral itself was for me as a wheelchair user. The floor was smooth, having been re-laid by the Victorians so I didn’t have any bumps to contend with. Most of the areas within the Cathedral were spacious, so there was plenty of space to move and I would have been able to use my scooter with ease around the main part of the Cathedral. The entrance to the Cathedral had ramp access, but there was a tight turn that I think I’d have struggled with if I’d been using my scooter.
The archway entrance to St. Stephen’s Chapel
St. Stephen’s Chapel however, was a lot smaller. I managed to get my wheelchair (a 16 inch seat) through the archway into the Chapel. Though I didn’t have much space either side of me. I think I would have *just* been able to get my 17 inch seat wheelchair through the archway, but I don’t think anything bigger would get through.
Inside St. Stephen’s Chapel
The displays were spaced with enough room for me to comfortably move around in my wheelchair, but some of the items of display were too high for me to see properly. However, the thing to remember with accessibility is that there is no one-size-fits all. If everything were at an ideal height for wheelchair users and children, there would be a lot of people struggling with back pain from having to lean down or stoop over to see.
Inside St. Stephen’s Chapel
While I found St. Stephen’s Chapel perfectly fine using my wheelchair, I think my mobility scooter would have been too big to get through the archway. If I had managed to get it in, I think I would have had difficulty manoeuvring round the displays.
The ramp allowing step free access to The Choir
The floor in The Choir
Step free access to the Choir was available from the North Aisle. As you can see from the photo, the ramp was old, rickety and didn’t sit flush to the Choir floor. As a result, I needed Mum’s help to get up to the Choir. She managed, but I got the feeling that the bump wasn’t easy for her. In my active user chair (not the chair I was using on the day), I would be able to manage this level of unevenness if I was going from one flat surface to another. However, pulling a wheelie on a ramp is not something I’m comfortable with! So even if I’d have been using my active chair, I still would’ve needed help getting to the Choir.
Step access to St. Chad’s Head Chapel
Mum and Dad on the balcony of St. Chad’s Head Chapel
I was really impressed that the only area of the Cathedral I wasn’t able to access was St. Chad’s Head Chapel, as it involved a flight of steps. Mum and Dad went up quickly to have a look, but didn’t stay long. I don’t think they like doing things that I’m not able to do, even though it doesn’t bother me.
Mum looking at the interactive board
There were two interactive boards either side of the entrance to the Lady Chapel (the Chapel at the far end of the Cathedral). These looked like they contained a lot of interesting information, but unfortunately their height meant that I was only able to see clearly the bottom portion of the boards.
In terms of lighting (because I’m photosensitive), Lichfield Cathedral was very well lit. The big windows allowed a lot of natural light in, so artificial light was minimal.
Lichfield Cathedral has a small area where you can purchase post cards and other memorabilia. More is available from The Shop At No. 9.
Unfortunately there isn’t a disabled toilet with in Lichfield Cathedral itself. The website cites the nearest disabled toilet to be 500 meters from the West End Entrance.
Lichfield Cathedral Accessibility: The Surrounding Area
I was impressed with Lichfield Cathedral accessibility itself, except the lack of a disabled toilet. Thankfully this wasn’t something I needed on the day, but still! However, the surrounding area left much to be desired.
The pavement around Lichfield Cathedral is uneven. On The Close, the road running down one side of the Cathedral, the pavement includes a steep slope that allows entrance to Chapters, the Cathedral’s cafe. Without my parents with me, I wouldn’t have been able to manage this slope even if I’d have been using my active user wheelchair. Not all of the drop curbs are sensibly positioned. As a result, Mum ended up pushing me along the road for a short distance. On our way home, we saw a family with a pram walking along the road, presumably for the same reason. Thankfully, the road is very quite. We didn’t see a single car using it.
Looking out from the Cathedral entrance. Step free access to the grounds is ahead, as is The Shop at No. 9
Getting from the road to the Cathedral isn’t a problem. While there are stairs to access the Cathedral to either side of frontage, there’s step free access directly infant of the Cathedral. This requires travelling a little farther than those who are able to use the stairs, but not by much. Using the step free entrance to the grounds has the benefit that you see the Cathedral straight on and in it’s full glory as you enter the grounds.
Lichfield Cathedral Accessibility: Parking
When we visited Lichfield Cathedral, we parked in Bird Street car park. This is 2 minutes away from the Cathedral. It’s a small car park with 179 parking spaces in it. 4 of these are disabled spaces, reserved for blue badge holders. The path from the car park to The Close is a standard pavement, which Mum pushed me along to conserve my energy. She found pavement easy to push me on.
Having looked on the Lichfield Cathedral Accessibility page (linked below), there is designated disabled parking within Cathedral Close, at the West front of the Cathedral.
Lichfield Cathedral Accessibility: Chapters, The Cafe In The Close
Lichfield Cathedral has a cafe, situated in The Close, which runs down one side of the Cathedral. The main entrance to the cathedral involves four steps. The wheelchair accessible entrance is well sign posted but requires going up a steep slope (the slope I mentioned above).
There are a few different rooms that make up the cafe. Unfortunately, the first room that you go through is small and not particularly well laid out. I had to disturb people from their lunches to ask them to move their chairs and allow me to pass. There were no available tables in this area, so sitting here was not an option for us. All the rooms are thickly carpeted, which isn’t ideal for those of us who self-propel. However, I do understand that they are much better for keeping buildings warm. There was a disabled toilet within the cafe.
Lichfield Cathedral Accessibility: The Shop At No. 9
Lichfield Cathedral has a small selection of it’s merchandise available within the Cathedral. In addition, there is a fully stocked shop opposite the Cathedral entrance. The main entrance involved three steps to access the shop. The Lichfield Cathedral Accessibility page says that there is “level access via the signposted route that provides access into the rear area of the shop.” When we visited, we saw no signposts or directions to an accessible entrance. As a result, Mum when into the shop, while Dad and I waited for her.
Step access to The Shop at No. 9
Lichfield Cathedral Accessibility: Financial
Financial accessibility might seem like an odd category, but hear me out. Lichfield Cathedral is one of the few Cathedrals that does not charge an admission fee, but does request a donation. I think this is fantastic, as it allows people to contribute what they are able to afford in order to help maintain such a beautiful place of worship. You don’t miss out on the opportunity to worship or learn about the history of Lichfield Cathedral because of your income (or lack of). Money is something that many disabled people don’t have much of, and what we do have is often taken up by the extra cost of living with a disability.
Want to know more about Lichfield Cathedral Accessibility? Check out their Mobility Access page.
Have you been to Lichfield Cathedral? What did you think of it? Were the facilities suitable for your needs?
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