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Churches and cathedrals get £10m in £103m bailout of heritage sector

16 October 2020

Sixteen cathedrals and 50 parishes get heritage grants

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The £600,000 grant awarded to Liverpool Cathedral is to be used to protect jobs and the cathedral’s financial security

The £600,000 grant awarded to Liverpool Cathedral is to be used to protect jobs and the cathedral’s financial security

MORE than 60 cathedrals and churches have secured a total of £10 million in government grants as part of a broader £103-million bailout of the heritage sector.

Sixty-six churches and cathedrals are among hundreds of buildings that have been awarded grants that must be spent immediately to protect jobs and enable the building to remain open in response to the pandemic and lockdown.

The grants range from £10,000 up to £1 million, and will be made to 16 cathedrals and 50 parish churches in the Church of England.

The director of the Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division, Becky Clark, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on communities all across the country, affecting both lives and livelihoods. The grants announced today as part of the Culture Recovery Fund will go directly into those communities, allowing iconic buildings to remain open, protecting jobs, and giving breathing space to plan for longer-term recovery.

“There is a great deal of uncertainty ahead, but this funding will help churches and cathedrals to be places of refuge, rest, and strength for all.”

The cathedrals and churches awarded the funding plan to spend the grant in several ways: to cover running costs and to offset the sudden collapse in their income; and to develop at-risk buildings and expand community projects.

The £600,000 grant awarded to Liverpool Cathedral is to be used to protect jobs and the cathedral’s financial security. The Dean, the Very Revd Dr Sue Jones, said that 2020 had been the “most difficult year of my Christian ministry”. Like much of the city, the cathedral had faced “large deficits”.

“Recognising our role as an employer in an economically deprived area, we have worked hard to preserve jobs,” she said. The Government handout was a “lifeline” that would “give us a bit more security in an uncertain world”.

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, said that 15 churches in her diocese would receive a total of £2 million, including St Martin-in-the-Fields, St James’s, Piccadilly, St Clement Danes, and St Pancras Old Church.

“The Government’s generosity will save jobs and enable a number of our historic churches across the capital to continue to preserve their heritage for the benefit of all, as they continue to adapt to the huge challenges that the pandemic has created,” she said.

Another London church to benefit is St Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames Street, close to London Bridge. Bishop Mullally paid tribute to the church’s past — it was rebuilt when the City of London recovered from the Great Fire — and present: helping the community after the terrorist attack at Fishmongers’ Hall near by last year (News, 6 December 2019).

“So many of our churches across the capital were there for Londoners of the past; they are serving their communities during the pandemic, and these grants will help ensure they are there for future generations, too.”

Another church to benefit is the Grade I listed St Mary’s, Bridgwater, in Somerset, which will be given £20,900 to expand its community café and hub by recruiting new staff. The Assistant Curate, the Revd Susan Osmond, said that the grant would “enable us to recover as a community hub, providing volunteer and work opportunities as well as a space for worship, arts, and culture to thrive”.

Derby Cathedral plans to spend its £270,800 grant on covering ongoing overheads, buying protective equipment, and meeting other essential costs, to offset the steep fall in income from donations and events. The Dean, the Very Revd Dr Peter Robinson, said that the money would help the cathedral to “start on our road of recovery and plan a sustainable response to the Covid crisis”.

St Michael’s, Great Witley, in Worcester diocese, is one of Britain’s best-preserved Baroque churches, normally reliant on concerts and visitors’ donations from visitors to fund maintenance. It has been awarded £37,500, to cover the ongoing costs of maintenance until March, besides allowing new digital displays in the building, once concerts can resume. The grant is also expected to allow the church to hire more stewards; most of the existing volunteer stewards are aged over 70, and so classed as vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Another beneficiary is the Grade II* listed St Mary the Virgin, Headley, in Guildford diocese, which was in the middle of a large renovation project when the effect of the pandemic was felt. Its £30,100 grant will cover building maintenance and operating costs.

The Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, who has been overseeing the rollout of the £1.57 billion recovery fund, said: “As a nation, it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs, and help us prepare for a cultural bounce-back post-Covid.”

Taylor pilot reports. A separate pilot fund for listed places of worship — funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and administered by Historic England — has been hailed as a success after a two-year review period.

The £1.8-million scheme was prompted by the Taylor review of the sustainability of English churches and cathedrals. It involves the creation of a £500,000 minor-repairs fund, and two new categories of advisers to assist congregations in maintenance and repair plans and developing community partnerships (News, 6 April 2018).

The recommendations have been piloted in Greater Manchester and Suffolk, to see if they could help historic and listed places of worship become more sustainable. A total of 136 listed places of worship across the two areas were assisted in carrying out essential repairs during the pilot period, bringing forward necessary maintenance by, on average, two to five years, Historic England said.

The advisers hired under the scheme helped churches to make higher-quality grant applications and write formal maintenance plans, while also boosting engagement in at-risk buildings beyond the worshipping congregation.

A key component was to provide small grants for “stitch-in-time” repairs that could safeguard buildings from damage, while longer-term proposals for renovation work were put together.

One church that benefited was the Grade I listed St Mary’s, Nettlestead, in Suffolk, a 12th-century building that also suffered bomb damage during the Second World War. A £9000 grant helped the congregation to patch up gutters, roof tiles, and cracks in the walls, buying more time to fund-raise for a bigger project to mend a hole in the chancel roof dating back to the 1950s, the churchwarden, Jeanna McCarthy, said.

Bernard Taylor, who chaired the 2018 review that prompted the pilot scheme, said: “I am delighted that this data-driven assessment of the Taylor review pilots has shown the considerable effectiveness, in practice, of our main recommendations.

“I hope these findings lead to the wide implementations of the Taylor Review’s ideas, thus providing necessary support to buildings and communities across the whole country.”

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