WORCESTER CATHEDRAL was among the dozens of church buildings to suffer extensive damage during Storm Arwen, which hit the UK last Friday.
The north-east of Scotland and the north of England were the worst affected by rain, snow, and gale-force winds over the weekend. Three people were killed by falling trees in Aberdeenshire, Antrim, and Lancashire last Friday, when the Met Office issued a red weather warning.
On Friday night, a large stone fell from the tower of Worcester Cathedral, smashing through the north choir-aisle roof and causing extensive damage, the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, reported on Twitter on Saturday morning. “I hope it won’t be regarded as an act of God!” he wrote.
The cathedral was closed over the weekend. It reopened on Monday, with visiting and services restricted to the nave and cloister; the shop and café were open as usual. The Dean of Worcester, the Very Revd Peter Atkinson, said on Monday: “A team of experts is on-site conducting investigations and making the affected area of roof-water and weather-proof. The nave and cloister are unaffected and open and safe for services and visiting.
“The roof’s ribbed vault appears to have buckled under the impact but has not given way. This is a tribute to those unnamed masons who built the east end of the cathedral in the 13th century. The damage, though serious, is confined to the aisle. The hole in the roof now has a temporary covering. A programme of repair is being planned, and a rope-access team have today been assessing the tower.”
The plan was for Christmas services and events to go ahead, he said, although it was unclear how long the programme of repair would take, how much it would cost, and what the knock-on effects might be. “We have already lost income over the weekend, and are sadly unable to release additional tickets for our popular Christmas carol and crib services as we had planned to this week, as a result of losing capacity in the north transept.”
He continued: “This is a terrible thing to have happened, particularly in the run-up to Christmas. While repairs take place, we will be operating under temporary measures designed to maximise our use of the building; but it will take time for us to be back to normal once more.”
Dean Atkinson urged the public to donate to the cathedral’s Christmas appeal.
Ecclesiastical Insurance confirmed on Tuesday that it was working with a team of specialists on site to fully assess the damage to the cathedral and to ensure the security and safety of the building.
Its claims director, Jeremy Trott, said: “Our team has taken calls from a number of churches who have unfortunately suffered significant damage to steeples, roofs, and other parts of their treasured buildings from wind, falling debris, and trees.
“Our claims teams have been working throughout to provide expert support to our customers, seeing more than ten times the usual number of calls over the weekend — and are now proactively working with our specialist loss adjusters and restoration companies to provide the very best support and guidance to those affected, with critical site visits beginning from Monday morning [29 November].”
He continued: “We know that storm damage can be hugely distressing . . . and in some cases can cause irreparable damage to historic buildings. . . Our risk teams can help to assess if there are any changes churches can make to help limit the damage to their properties before storms hit.”
Roads were closed and clean-up operations by local councils were under way after hundreds of trees were blown over in 100-mph winds. These also caused damage to churchyards, including St Peter’s, Heysham; St Mary’s, Morecambe; Lancaster Castle; and Morecambe cemetery. Trains were affected, and 40,000 households were still without power on Sunday.
St Wilfrid’s/FacebookDamage to the footpath of St Wilfrid’s, Standish, on Saturday
Several trees were toppled in the gardens of Bishop’s Lodge, the residence of the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes. The gardens are usually open to the public once a week. Bishop Bayes posted on Twitter: “Very grateful to my colleagues Phil and Tom for all the hard work done in this garden over many years. We’ll do all we can to be able to welcome people here again soon.”
The footpath to St Wilfrid’s, Standish, and several gravestones were severely damaged after one its biggest trees was blown over on Friday night. The Rector, Canon Andrew Holliday, reported on Facebook on Saturday: “It is now posing a health and safety risk to any entering the churchyard from the lychgate on Rectory Lane. . . We are leaving it until Monday, as the tree is safe at the moment, but we want to minimise the risk to everyone.”