More urgent repairs will be made to 24 Church of England and seven Catholic cathedrals thanks to the announcement of £6.9 million in grants from the Government-sponsored fund set up to support vital repairs to some of England’s most important historic buildings.
ChurchCare, the cathedral and church buildings division of the Church of England, has today welcomed Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement that the final phase of the scheme will provide 31 cathedrals with grants of between £12,000 and £800,000 for essential and urgent repairs ranging from repairs to roofs and stonework through to complete re-wiring.
Lichfield Cathedral, containing treasures such as the St Chad’s Gospel and the Saxon ‘Lichfield Angel’ sculpture, receives the largest grant, of £800,000, for work to replace wiring and lighting systems in the medieval building.
The cathedral was facing the possibility of closure without funds for the essential work. The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, welcomed the “timely and generous” grant.
“Lichfield Cathedral is over 700 years old and the last time it had to close its doors to the public was during a Civil War siege,” he said. “The possibility of closure was heart-breaking. Cathedral buildings offer so much to so many – at Lichfield we are running a Citizen’s Parliament to discuss the upcoming election, opening up new parts of the church to visitors via our tower and rooftop tours, and celebrating our fine musical tradition. Without this timely and generous grant all of this would have been under threat.”
Birmingham Cathedral welcomed the award of £500,000 to help replace obsolete lighting and wiring systems. The building, currently celebrating its 300th year, needs outdated and malfunctioning fittings replaced with more practical, sustainable and energy efficient alternatives to showcase its Baroque architecture and Edward Burne-Jones stained glass windows.
The Very Reverend Catherine Ogle, Dean of Birmingham said: “This is marvellous news and means that we can improve the facilities that we offer to everyone who comes to the Cathedral. Birmingham deserves the very best & we’re excited now to look forward to a newly refurbished interior.”
York Minster was delighted with the news that it has been awarded £100,000 of additional funding to support vital repairs to the stonework and roof of the Camera Cantorum. Dating from 1415, and located on the south side of the Minster, the Camera Cantorum is a two storey structure, which currently houses the Minster shop and the Minster Song School and is where generations of choristers have been trained. Twelve former choristers and an Alto songman were killed on active service in the First World War. An award of £200,000 was made in October 2014 in the first round of grant awards.
Commenting on the new funding, the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, Dean of York and Chairman of the Association of English Cathedrals, said:
“The First World War Centenary Repairs Fund has provided cathedrals across the country with a vital financial lifeline to enable major fabric repairs that will protect and conserve our cathedrals for worshippers, visitors and communities. The additional funds to support the restoration of the Camera Cantorum at York Minster will help us to establish a living memorial to the lives of those local young musicians of great promise who gave their lives in service of the nation”.
Other cathedrals to receive grants include Durham, which has been allocated £568,000 for repair and conservation work on its central tower, and Ripon Cathedral, which incorporates the oldest feature of any cathedral in England, a Saxon crypt, receives £19,000 to repair 35 windows. And with £65,000, Sheffield Cathedral will be able to bring two chapels back into use by replacing failed lighting.
The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, lead bishop for cathedrals and church buildings in the Church of England, said:
“Cathedrals are not just beautiful buildings which are part of our heritage, they are active places of worship and community hubs. Keeping these magnificent, complex buildings standing, open and welcoming to all who come through their doors, is rightly a priority for the Church of England. Cathedrals have an economic and social impact and it is appropriate to see the Government making a significant contribution to their care. This final round of grants shows the diversity of projects which need support, but also the ambition and open-mindedness of cathedrals when it comes to making themselves the centres of their communities.”
The Chancellor George Osborne said: “Churches and Cathedrals are a unique part of our national heritage, and play a vital role in community life – we want to support them, and thanks to our long-term economic plan, we can.
“Whether it’s our country’s future or these important buildings, the sun is shining and we’re starting to fix the roof.”
The Church of England’s 42 cathedrals are estimated to contribute around £220 million to the national economy every year through employment and tourism. They welcome more than 11 million visitors annually, employ more than 7,000 people and are supported by 15,000 dedicated volunteers.
Sir Paul Ruddock, Chair of the Expert Panel, First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund and Chairman of the Victoria & Albert Museum, said:
“Cathedrals are perhaps the most multi-faceted of historic buildings, still in use for their original purpose, and representing our own shared history. They are very much public spaces, there for everyone, a heady mix of sacred and secular, with vast appeal to millions of people. In chairing the Expert Panel which allocated this money I have been privileged to see first-hand the heights of success which cathedrals can achieve through use of their wonderful buildings. I am also acutely aware that there is still much work to do in order to keep them safe and open.”
Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chairman, Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, said:
“In the year of the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, six copies of which are still held by cathedrals, it is timely to consider the place of the church in the life of the nation. In the case of cathedrals it is clear that they provide much more than services. They offer a spiritual and physical sanctuary from everyday life, a chance to experience something greater. It is right and proper that the Government is supporting the care of these places and the huge range of initiatives – from food banks and night shelters to concerts and exhibitions – that cathedrals run for the benefit of us all.”