Historic Work in Action.

20th June 2023

Visitors to two of our cathedrals this summer have the chance to get up close for a rare glimpse of historic work in action.

Witness the historic work as it happens at Exeter and Birmingham Cathedral

Scaffolding has gone up in Birmingham Cathedral as part of its Divine Beauty project – to conserve its four remarkable stained-glass windows by Pre-Raphaelite artists Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris.

Visitors to Exeter Cathedral can now see historic work taking place through specially-created viewing points, allowing them to see the progress of the cathedral’s most significant development project in more than a century.

In Birmingham, expert conservators from Holy Well Glass will be completing as much of the work to conserve, repair and preserve the four Burne Jones windows as possible on-site at Birmingham Cathedral and have invited visitors to see what their work involves with special weekday tours on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Explore the windows on Birmingham cathedrals website interactively here.

Image Credit by Acanthus Clews Architects & Marvin Chik

Further tours on Saturday will be led by members of the Birmingham Cathedral team who will be on hand to show visitors the progress up close and explain the project generally.

They four windows, The Ascension,  The Nativity,  The Crucifixion  and The Last Judgement are widely considered to be some of the finest art in Birmingham.

There is a live stream to watch the restoration project here.

The Ascension was the first window to be installed in 1885. The window depicts Jesus parting with his followers and ascending into heaven forty days after Easter.

The Nativity and The Crucifixion were the next two windows to be installed in 1887. They were paid for by wealthy Birmingham resident Emma Chadwick Villers-Wilkes. She specifically requested that there should be no oxen in the Nativity scene (as she considered them to be too brutish). She also asked that there should not be any blood in the Crucifixion scene. These windows are positioned directly opposite each other in the cathedral, highlighting the anguish of the events.

The Divine Beauty project will see the restoration of the windows and has secured £641,200 in National Lottery Heritage funding to go towards this vital conservation.

In the first week of the tours opening, over 600 people booked onto nearly 90 separate tours taking place over the next 4 months –  almost a fifth of capacity. You can find out more and book your tour here.

Specially-created viewing points have opened up in Exeter Cathedral allowing visitors to see the progress of the cathedral’s development project which will see essential building conservation and visitor improvements taking place, designed to secure a more sustainable future for the cathedral.

Witness the historic work as it happens at Exeter and Birmingham Cathedral

Visitors can view the historic developments taking place in the central ‘Quire’ area of the cathedral where a more efficient underfloor heating system will be installed to make the area a more comfortable place for services, community gatherings and events, while also helping to reduce the cathedral’s carbon footprint. Once the new heating system is in place, a new floor tile design will be installed, based on the work of 19th century architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott, who designed four elaborate tiled floors in the Quire. Most of Scott’s original tiles were removed during conservation work in the 1960s.

Work to create a new Cloister Gallery can also be seen by visitors from a new viewing point inside the cathedral. The new construction is being built on the foundations of the original medieval cloisters, which were demolished in the mid-17th century.

When completed, the Cloister Gallery will recreate a covered walkway to connect the cathedral with its 13th century Chapter House and Pearson Building, where a new Treasures Exhibition space will display ancient collections from the cathedral’s library and archives. The Pearson Building will house a new cathedral shop, and improve accessibility with lifts and new toilet facilities.

Witness the historic work as it happens at Exeter and Birmingham Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral’s 2020s Development Appeal aims to raise £10 million and has already received £6.2 million, including a grant of nearly £300,000 from Valencia Communities Fund and a £4.3 million grant received last year from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

As well as improvements and conservation work, the funds will be used to support a calendar of community activities and events to make the ancient Devon landmark more inclusive, accessible and sustainable for the future.

The Very Revd Jonathan Greener, Dean of Exeter, said:

“We are preserving this precious piece of Devon heritage for future generations, just as previous generations did for us. We also need to ensure that it continues to inspire and meet the needs of all the people of Devon for the 21st century.”

Alison Salvador, General Manager at Valencia Communities, which is supporting the cathedral’s project as part of its special Jubilee Legacy Project to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th year.

“Our Board of Trustees is so pleased to be supporting the cathedral’s impressive planned works and takes a great deal of pride in the part we are able to play in the restoration of this truly iconic building. We look forward to seeing the finished works and the Quire being used, in comfort, by the community and visitors alike in the near future. It is indeed a true legacy project.”

As part of its fundraising efforts, the cathedral recently launched its Adopt a Stone initiative, which offers people a chance to ‘adopt’ a piece of the new Cloister Gallery building.

More information about The 2020s Development Appeal and the Adopt a Stone scheme can be found on the Exeter Cathedral website.

Image Credits : Acanthus Clews Architects & Marvin Chik, Exeter Cathedral