Abseiler scans iconic west front of Peterborough Cathedral

Monday 17 August

On Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th August a stonemason will abseil down the iconic west front of Peterborough Cathedral to do a condition survey. But this is no ordinary condition survey.

The high resolution laser scans Kate Holmes will take on her descent will add to one of the most in-depth digital captures of an historic building ever carried out.

The results of all this scanning will not only provide safer and more cost effective access to information for maintenance and repair purposes, but also a rich and inspiring educational resource for schools at a time when field trips seem like a thing of the past. The scans can also generate 3D printing and the initial concept is that some of the statues Kate will scan on the west front, with other carved details on the building, may become part of a unique, limited edition Peterborough Cathedral chess set, reproduced in cast stone resin.

As part of the process, a drone will be used to criss-cross the west front in a grid pattern to capture additional data.

The hi-tech scanning is being carried out by a team from Architectural & Heritage Scanning Ltd. Together they have over 35 years of experience of stonemasonry and historic building conservation and restoration and with this project they are now combining point cloud scanning - which can generate measured drawings to a very high level of accuracy - with photogrammetry and close range scanning, to achieve both intricate detail and visual and colour accuracy. During their visits to the Cathedral they have been scanning all aspects, inside and out, from the most inaccessible parts of the roof and clerestory, to the Saxon foundations in the under croft.

Graham Sykes, Technical Director of Architectural & Heritage Scanning Ltd, said:

“We think that Peterborough Cathedral may well be the most digitally recorded historic building ever at this point, with 16 billion data points and over 30,000 images.  

“Similar work has been carried out at Notre Dame Cathedral and at Westminster Abbey but this is not quite so in-depth as we have used a wider range of scanners and methods to capture different levels of detail. We see the project as a unique case study or test piece to assess what can be achieved. We’ve loved every minute of it and it has been a privilege to work on such a magnificent building.”

Dave Cramp, Commercial Director for Peterborough Cathedral said:

“We are already at the early stages of working on ideas for how we can use these very life-like images and fly-through videos, in materials for schools, enabling our education team to visit classrooms and inspire students with a fascination for the life and history of this ancient building. The potential for virtual tours, increased accessibility, and bespoke objects for sale in our shop is also very exciting.”

A few more visits from A & H Scanning Ltd are needed to complete the project, which is expected to be concluded at the end of the summer.

Look out for clips of the imagery on Instagram @peterborough_cathedral or @ahscanning

Photo above: © Terry Harris

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