A £40m scheme to conserve and repair England’s cathedrals ahead of First World War centenary events has significantly reduced immediate risks, according to a report just published.
The First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund, launched by the Government in 2014, invited applications from Catholic and Church of England cathedrals to address urgent repair works. The fund prioritised making buildings weatherproof, safe and open to the public as well as ensuring they would be in a safe condition to host acts of remembrance for the centenary of the First World War armistice in 2018.
Grants were awarded over two phases between 2014-18, each totalling £20 million. The largest number of projects were for roof repairs (one third) Many of the repairs funded related to external masonry, with other projects covered including guttering, heating, sound system, electrical and window refurbishment.
A total of 146 awards were made to 57 cathedrals. Twelve cathedrals were awarded more than £1 million each, and the average award was £274,000.
With funding now complete, today’s independent report shows a significant reduction of problems requiring immediate repair as a result of the investment but warned that recipients all had outstanding repairs in areas not covered by the scheme.
The report concluded that the fund had been successful in achieving its aims and met a funding need that could not be met elsewhere, adding that areas of cathedrals covered by grant-aided projects had been very largely changed from needing urgent repair to needing routine maintenance only.
The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, the Church of England’s lead bishop for churches and cathedrals said:
“Cathedrals are at the forefront of the nation’s acts of remembrance each year, and in 2018 will perform their civic and community duty with added significance, as we mark 100 years since the end of the First World War.
“This fund has been an imaginative and welcome resource to ensure our cathedrals are fit for this commemoration, as well as underpinning the vital contributions they make to their communities.
“With visitor and congregation numbers rising, and community outreach in abundance, it is vital that we do not stop here, and continue our commitment as a nation to protecting England’s cathedrals for generations to come.
“We look forward to continuing a constructive dialogue with the Government around future funding collaborations.”
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, the Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, said:
“The value of cathedrals has been demonstrated time and again. One in four of us will have visited a cathedral in the past 12 months, and with an estimated contribution to the economy of around £220m a year, the First World War Centenary Repairs Fund investment in cathedrals has made very good sense.
“I will be working with colleagues to explore ways that a shared approach to cathedral repair work can continue, ensuring cathedrals are fit to continue their important contribution to society.”
Sir Paul Ruddock, who chaired the expert panel which made the awards said:
“I have found the four years allocating and monitoring the impact of the government’s £40 million in cathedral repairs to be immensely worthwhile and rewarding.
“As a result of this investment, many cathedrals planned additional First World War memorial services and activities and the legacy of repair works supported by this admirable grant programme will be a lasting and fitting commemoration of the centenary of the conflict.”
Grants were awarded by an independent panel chaired by Sir Paul Ruddock, a position appointed by the Secretary of State. The Fund was administered by the Church of England’s Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division (CCB) on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, with the CCB praised in the report for cost efficiency and excellent communication.
England’s cathedrals contribute more than £220m to the economy each year, draw in in more than 11 million visitors. Often complex and historic buildings, each has the responsibility for raising the funds required for upkeep. However, with no regular Government funding, each cathedral faces an ongoing challenge to maintain their fabric while ensuring comfort, safety and accessibility for all.