St Paul's Cathedral closed over protest

St Paul's Cathedral has been forced to close its doors to the public because of the anti-capitalist protest taking place outside.

The Dean of St Paul's, the Rev Graeme Knowles, said the decision to close the cathedral was made with "heavy hearts".

He said the decision was taken after church officials received a report by health and safety officials.

The Dean asked the activists, who have occupied a makeshift campsite outside the main entrance of the house of worship since Saturday, to move on.

He said the church would close its doors to members of the public after a service this afternoon.

The cathedral has not been closed since the Second World War, the Dean said.

"We have a legal obligation to keep visitors safe and healthy," he added.

Earlier in the week, a church official said the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest was causing a "risk to the life of the cathedral".

Mr Knowles, who has been forced to cancel a visit to America, said the decision was "unprecedented".

He said: "I have written an open letter to the protesters this afternoon advising them that we have no lawful alternative but to close St Paul's Cathedral until further notice.

"Health, safety and fire officers have pointed out that access to the cathedral is seriously limited.

"With so many stoves and fires and lots of different types of fuel around, there is a very clear fire hazard.

"Then there is the public health aspect which indeed speaks for itself. The dangers relate not just to cathedral staff and to visitors but are a potential hazard to those encamped themselves.

"The decision to close St Paul's Cathedral is unprecedented in modern times.

"We have done this with a very heavy heart, but it is simply not possible to fulfil our day to day obligations to worshippers, visitors and pilgrims in current circumstances."

Mr Knowles said he has asked the Registrar to implement "emergency procedures" to keep the building closed but fit for purpose.

The 200 staff and 100 volunteers were informed of the closure this afternoon.

A cathedral spokeswoman said staff would be coming to work "as usual".

The Dean continued: "In the open letter I am asking the protesters to recognise the huge issues facing us at this time and asking them to leave the vicinity of the building so that the cathedral can reopen as soon as possible."

He added: "I hope that the protesters will understand the issues we are facing, recognise that their voice has been legitimately heard, and withdraw peacefully."

He said the cathedral's Chapter defended the right to protest but would like to use the building for its intended use.

"That protest has happened, it has been legitimately heard and we would now like to be able to have space back and use it as we should," he added.

Some of the issues raised by Health and Safety and fire officers included the presence of unknown quantities of flammable liquids, smoking and drinking in tented areas, compromised fire exits and public health issues such as sanitation and food hygiene.

The cathedral is one of London's best loved tourist attractions and draws between 2,000 and 3,000 worshippers each Sunday.

He said small gatherings of no more than 100 people would still be allowed inside the church so planned weddings could still go ahead.

A cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood on the site since 604 AD. The current building - the fourth to occupy the site - was designed by the court architect, Sir Christopher Wren, and built between 1675 and 1710 after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London.

It is a key site on London's skyline, a popular location with tourists and is the cathedral of the Diocese of London.

It has been the focus point for many a royal celebration, including Queen Victoria's Jubilee and the marriage of Lady Diana Spencer to the Prince of Wales on July 29 1981.

As well as attending the wedding of Charles and Diana, the Royal Family has gathered in force at St Paul's over the years for the 80th and 100th birthdays of the Queen Mother and the thanksgiving services for the Queen's Golden Jubilee and her 80th birthday.

It also staged the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill, the peace services marking the end of the First and Second World Wars and more recently the Service of Remembrance and Commemoration for the September 11 terrorist attacks.

A group of around 200 activists living in the camp congregated on the steps of the cathedral for a meeting to discuss the closure.

The campers decided that they would not leave the vicinity "for the moment".

They took turns to address the crowd. One female protester said: "We should not be blackmailed into moving.

"We agree that we should stay. It is too necessary for us to go straight away."

Others chanted: "We should not go."

Activist Julian Stevenson, from Barnstaple in Devon, said it was "not constructive" to get involved in a conflict with the church.

Another said: "When we started this occupation, no one invited us."

One camper was holding a banner which read: "Where would Jesus be if he were here today? Would he be camped out in the freezing weather speaking out against inequality? Or would he be in a religious building worrying about revenue from tourists?"

A man, who did not wish to be named, read out a mission statement to the crowd. He said: "The current system is unsustainable, undemocratic and unjust.

"We stand together with occupations all over the world.

"We refuse to pay for the banks' crisis."

The camp, which has been erected for six days, is occupied by dozens of tents. The activists are camped under a banner which reads "capitalism is crisis".

Three generators are providing power to the camp, there are two portable toilets and a kitchen, and even a library has been constructed.


Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little