This week will be one of the busiest of the year for Church of England cathedrals as they prepare to welcome more than 100,000 people to their Christmas services. And this week 17 Church of England cathedrals have also learned that they will receive grants to help ensure they stay dry, safe and secure for the future. The grants add up to £952,000 and cover 21 key projects of repair, conservation and enhancement to the magnificent cathedrals under the Church of England’s stewardship.
A sum of £645,000 will be awarded from the Cathedral Fabric Repair Fund, a partnership between the Wolfson Foundation, the Pilgrim Trust and the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England (CFCE), all organisations with long records of supporting England’s historic church buildings and their contents. Over the past three years the Fund has awarded more than £1.8 million for essential and urgent works to keep cathedrals weatherproof and watertight, including major re-roofing and stonework repairs at cathedrals such as Lincoln, Norwich and Durham.
This is the final year of Cathedral Fabric Repair Fund’s initial three-year programme, and its present partners hope to see additional backers joining the scheme so that it will continue into the future. It has been estimated that England’s cathedrals need more than £10 million pounds a year simply for their routine care and maintenance – and they receive no direct government funding.
Janet Gough, Director, Cathedral and Church Buildings Division of the Archbishops’ Council, said: “This is a unique fund supported by grant-giving bodies who understand the need for a strategic funding programme to support critical repairs to our historic cathedrals, which have been and continue to be immensely significant in the nation’s life. We hope that on the basis of the present successful partnership that the fund will grow with further grant-making funds and private individuals joining in.”
Paul Ramsbotton, Chief Executive, The Wolfson Foundation, said: “We are delighted to be funding these buildings of spectacular attraction and significance. We are particularly pleased to see that cathedrals are using our grants to encourage further donations – and to help their ongoing fundraising efforts.”
Georgina Nayler, Director, The Pilgrim Trust, said: “The Pilgrim Trust has been contributing towards the repair of our beautiful and important cathedrals for over 82 years. We are delighted to be part of the Cathedral Fabric Repair Fund and to be working in partnership with the CFCE and the Wolfson Foundation to continue our support.”
The Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England (CFCE), added: “One of the most significant aspects of these grants is that we have included a number of cathedrals for which fund-raising is less easy, and also several with innovative solutions to problems posed by 20th century materials and climate change.”
This year’s 10 successful applicants were Chester, Gloucester, Guildford, Hereford, Leicester, Lincoln, Peterborough, St Edmundsbury, Southwark and Worcester Cathedrals. The Cathedral Fabric Repair Fund has been particularly pleased to be able to support important work such as:
• Repairing and re-covering the South Aisle roof at Gloucester Cathedral, above the dramatic main public approach. The Cathedral attracts some 300,000 visitors a year and this year was rated second in the country by Which? magazine for offering the best visitor experience while visiting an historic site.
• Replacing the oldest copper roofs at Guildford Cathedral, the only cathedral in southern England to be built on a new site since the Reformation. It was constructed in the Gothic style between 1936 and 1961 using modern materials such as brick and concrete. Despite their relatively recent 20th-century date, the drainpipes and gutters need to be upgraded to cope with the more intense rainfall which has been experienced in recent years.
• Repairing the high-level stonework of the Nave North Aisle at Worcester Cathedral, to prevent rainwater running down and eroding the 12th-century walling. The Cathedral, which has 260,000 visitors a year, has already raised funding to match the £100,000 grant, and the work will be carried out by its own team of stonemasons.
A further £307,000 of cathedral grant funding is being awarded under two separate grant schemes funded by the Church of England.
The Cathedral Amenities Fund, which makes grants for improvements to the setting of ancient cathedrals and greater churches, is offering grants totalling £236,000 for work including stabilising the ruins at Coventry Cathedral, re-paving around Pershore Abbey and Southwell Minster, and work on the main east entrance at Bradford Cathedral.
In addition, a total of £71,000 will be offered to Derby, Coventry, Exeter, Salisbury and Wakefield Cathedrals for the conservation of artworks and historic furnishings, including the restoration of the fine organ at Exeter Cathedral and a feasibility study for the conservation of the massive 1962 Graham Sutherland tapestry Christ in Glory at Coventry Cathedral.