First World War fund gave cathedrals critical aid, say deans

17 July 2018

Blackburn Cathedral

Blackburn Cathedral

Blackburn Cathedral

LICHFIELD CATHEDRAL was saved from being at a “critical point” through funding from the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund, the Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, has said.

A report on the fund, First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund Evaluation, published on Tuesday, says that the fund was “successful in achieving its aims and met a funding need that could not be met elsewhere”.

The objectives of the First World War Fund were to carry out repairs to listed Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals in England to “ensure they are watertight, safe, and open to the public”. Around the country, 146 grants were awarded to 57 cathedrals; 12 of them received more than £1 million. The average cathedral was given £274,000.

Lichfield Cathedral received £1.49 million of funding for emergency rewiring and essential lighting improvements, as well as repairs to the 12th-century Chapter House.

ISTOCKLichfield Cathedral

Dean Dorber said: “Prior to the work, Lichfield Cathedral was at a critical point. The electrics had degraded to the point where they were no longer safe, and the cathedral was beginning to struggle to function.

“This timely funding has not only reversed the immediate risks, but also given a boost for some of the funding to be matched locally, resulting in new lighting which greatly enhances the beauty of this building, as well as reducing our energy consumption.”

The lead bishop on church buildings and cathedrals, the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, said on Tuesday: “This fund has been an imaginative and welcome resource to ensure our cathedrals are fit for this commemoration [of the First World War], as well as underpinning the vital contributions they make to their communities.

“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 report says that “a fund specific to cathedrals, and which dealt with urgent yet ‘unglamorous’ repairs, was well-received”.

One of the interviewees quoted in the study said: “If the Fund hadn’t come up in the way that it did and when it did, it would have resulted in temporary closures of cathedrals while they attempted to raise the money — and I’m not sure where that money would have come from.

“This isn’t a bloody stump threat — ‘Give us what we want or we’ll close’ — there were real insurance issues in some cases, and situations that were a threat to public health.”

The report of the Cathedrals Working Group, published in January, argued that a “large number” of cathedrals were under “significant financial pressure”, and spoke of a “reputational risk for the entire Church, especially where a cathedral is unable to pay its creditors in full” (News, 18 January).

It said that there was “a level of systematic under-funding that needs addressing by Church and State”, and recommended that the Government be approached about a state contribution to a “national cathedral fabric fund”.

The First World War Fund report quoted a recommendation for the future funding of cathedrals from the Cathedrals Working Group’s report: “The NCIs [National Church Institutions] and AEC [Association of English Cathedrals] should work jointly on an approach to Government and large philanthropic organisations with the aim of establishing a significant, possibly endowment based, cathedral fabric fund for the UK.”

At the General Synod, the working group’s report was welcomed, and concerns about future funding were aired (News, 10 July).

Another case study given was Coventry Cathedral, which received £1.26 million in grants from the fund, which were used to stabilise the ruins of St Michael’s Cathedral, and to repair the Chapel of Unity.

The Dean, the Very Revd John Witcombe, said: “The ruins of the medieval cathedral stand proudly as an icon of hope. They are known throughout the world as the place where our ministry of peace and reconciliation began, and remain a focal point for many events and activities in the city each year.

“This timely funding has enabled the completion of an eight-year project to ensure this iconic site remains open and accessible as a place for quiet reflection, and to experience the impact of the peace-building work to which Coventry Cathedral is committed.”

One interviewee said: “It got cathedrals to think about maintenance, and got communities to think about cathedrals.”

Liverpool Cathedral, the largest cathedral in the UK, received just over £1 million for roof and high-level repairs. The Dean, the Very Revd Dr Sue Jones, said: “It is so important that we ensure the survival and upkeep of this beautiful building, so preserving a place of prayer and worship that serves the community and city both for the present and for the future.”

The ten Anglican cathedrals to receive £1 million or more were Winchester, Truro, Salisbury, Liverpool, Lincoln, Lichfield, Ely, Durham, Derby, and Coventry.

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