Nelson Cathedral was designed in a good old Victorian Gothic style with an expensive grey marble stone. But the building cost escalated, a better understanding of earthquakes developed, and it became clear the plan had to change. In the end quite a lot of the cathedral follows a mid-20th century squarish style, built in concrete covered with a grey cement render incorporating a lot of crushed-up marble. I reckon they’ve done a decent job – in fact as a building I like it much more than Wellington Cathedral.
Unfortunately the acoustic in the building seems rather ‘dead’, and as for the bells… well, I don’t know what they sound like, but hung the way they are it’s a bit disappointing. They’re hung ‘dead’ and are rung by hammers pulled from an apparatus called an Ellacombe Frame. Basically this involves 8 ropes pulled to clank the clappers against the bells… but Ellacombe Frames are despised among ‘proper’ ringers!
Inside, the Cathedral is pleasantly cosy and serious at the same time, with everything carefully matched and made to look as if it was meant to be this way. There’s none of the annoying jarring of Wellington, where it looks like everything’s just been thrown together.
The stained glass here is particularly good – again unlike at Wellington, where most of the stained glass in the nave is awful. There’s a decent rose window, a huge collection of scenes from the life of Jesus (and beyond), the ‘beasts’ associated with the four gospel writers, assorted saints, and a whole lot else.