New Heights

New Heights

Abseiler scans iconic west front of Peterborough Cathedral

Architectural and Heritage Scanning has chosen Peterborough Cathedral, due to its ideal size and architectural purity, to become the first subject of their cultural heritage preservation project.

The project, which is around 80% complete, is aiming to create a highly accurate digital map of the building, a “digital twin.”

Photogrammetry has been used in this way before, notably at Notre Dame to assist efforts to repair the cathedral after the fire in April last year, but not in such detail.

Stonemason Kate Holmes from Architectural & Heritage Scanning Ltd abseiled down Peterborough Cathedral to carry out a laser scan on what the team claim is the most digitally recorded historic building in the world, ahead of Westminster Abbey and Notre Dame Cathedral.

It is estimated that around 50 scans were taken of Notre Dame but over 700 have been taken of Peterborough Cathedral, leading to over 30,000 images and 16 billion data points produced.

The project is making use of close-range scanners, typically used in Formula 1 motor racing, as well as drones that will criss-cross the west front of the 12th century Norman structure to capture additional data.

With the digital scans, the cathedral will have better access to information for maintenance and repair purposes as well as a valuable educational tool.

3D scans will allow the doors of the cathedral to be opened to people from all across the world, in the form of virtual tours, as well as to local schools, whose children are currently missing out due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Drone footage taken as Stonemason Kate Holmes abseils down Peterborough Cathedral to carry out a laser scan on what the team claim is the most digitally recorded historic building in the world. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

It is also hoped that the scans of some of the statues can be used to create a limited edition Peterborough Cathedral chess set.

Today (August 17), Kate Mason, who is a qualified stonemason and abseiler, has been using a handheld 3D scanner to photograph the iconic western side of the building.

This is the first time such technology has been used in this way as normally it would be done by simply taking photographs.

This will put the project on course to deliver their first results by the end of October.

Stonemason Kate Holmes and colleagues from Architectural & Heritage Scanning Ltd abseil down Peterborough Cathedral to carry out a laser scan. Pictures: David Lowndes

Technical Director of Architectural Heritage and Scanning Ltd, Graham Sykes said: “We think that Peterborough Cathedral will become the most documented cathedral in the country, if not Europe.

“Going forward, we hope to document and help preserve any level of cultural history, whether that be a building like this or a coin.

“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, added: “We are already at the early stages of working on ideas for how we can use these very lifelike 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.”

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