WINCHESTER Cathedral has announced that it is now welcoming canine visitors.

The change came about following a visit to the cathedral by New Forest resident Sarah Morris in 2022, who was upset to find that she was unable to enter the building accompanied by her seven-year-old black Labrador Daisy.

Writing in the Church Times, Ms Morris said: “Staff on the door were very apologetic. They explained that they did not know why it was the policy, but I was asked to leave the building. Meanwhile, I could see families with screaming babies and toddlers, and lively school groups running about and making lots of noise — all allowed in the cathedral. Just as it should be in an all-welcoming place.”

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Ms Morris wrote to the Dean of Winchester, the Very Revd Catherine Ogle, asking if the policy could be revised. She later received a response from the Dean, informing her that a new dog-friendly policy was being trailed, and inviting her and Daisy to visit Winchester Cathedral as her guests.

Hampshire Chronicle: Daisy the dog dressed as a chorister at Winchester CathedralDaisy the dog dressed as a chorister at Winchester Cathedral (Image: Sarah Morris)

Ms Morris told the Chronicle: “It was lovely to be invited back.

“The term ‘Welcome’ took on a personal reason. When someone is made to feel welcome it is great, and that can be as simple as having a little bowl of water for the dog and a little jar of biscuits, or someone saying ‘welcome’.

“When you have a dog, it tends to pull you towards people, which is a great way to start a conversation, and it was really lovely to be welcomed.”

Other cathedrals across the UK have begun to ease their stance on allowing dog visitors, including Salisbury Cathedral and Canterbury Cathedral.

A spokesperson for Winchester Cathedral said: “A three-month trial to allow dogs accompanying paying visitors into the Cathedral began in late October 2023.

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“Since then, 200 or so well-behaved dogs have come into the Cathedral during visiting hours (not during services of worship) and the dogs’ owners have been delighted and grateful to have received such a warm welcome. 

“Following feedback from staff, volunteers, and visitors, it was decided that the trial would become a permanent policy for those purchasing the annual pass, with guidance to owners to ensure a good experience for everyone, whether dog lovers or not. So, owners are asked to keep their pets on a short lead, not to leave them unattended and to be considerate of others, especially where space is more limited.   Dogs are not currently permitted entry to evening events, services, and in the café.

“The Cathedral hopes this decision will widen the cathedral’s welcome to many more people who want to come and enjoy everything this beautiful, historic building has to offer.”