English Heritage and the Wolfson Foundation have announced on Thursday 15 February funding for the repair of 24 cathedrals across England as part of a new joint scheme worth up to £6 million.
This year’s grants, totalling £1.6 million, will be used for a range of projects from masonry repairs at Hereford and Salisbury to the restoration of a Pugin reredos at Leeds. Cuts in Government funding meant English Heritage was forced to reduce the scheme to just £1 million in 2004. This new partnership reinstates pre-2004 levels of funding and doubles individual grant thresholds so helping cathedrals to undertake larger repair projects.
Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage, said: “Even in this uncertain and often cynical age, cathedrals still have the ability to bring us to our knees with awe, just as the masons and craftspeople who created them centuries ago intended.
The front of Rochester Cathedral “They, more than any other type of building, demonstrate the power of architecture to affect us at the most profound level and to remind us of our place in history. I am delighted we have been able to double the amount available for the repair of these remarkable and hugely important buildings by pooling our resources with the Wolfson Foundation - a major grant-making charity with which we have worked closely and productively in the past on other areas of the heritage.”
Paul Ramsbottom, Executive Secretary of the Wolfson Foundation, said: "We are delighted to be funding cathedrals in partnership with English Heritage. These are buildings that lift the spirits: monuments that speak to each succeeding generation. They remain central to our country’s history. It has been a particular pleasure again to work with English Heritage, and we have benefited greatly from their expertise. The impact of the two organisations working together is greater than the individual parts".
Like all large historic buildings, cathedrals need constant, careful repair and maintenance and collectively they spend £11 million on carrying out this work each year. The English Heritage Cathedral Grants scheme has been running since 1991 when a survey showed that the country’s 61 cathedrals were facing a huge backlog of major repairs that they could not fund alone. Since then the scheme has contributed a grand total of £43.4 million towards works to overcome that backlog. The focus of the new joint scheme remains on necessary major structural repairs to maintain that good condition, although other work such as archaeological and metric surveys, access audits, conservation plans and the installation of fire detection systems is also eligible.
Clock and central tower of Southwell Minster Southwell Minster, an exquisite but too little-known 12th century cathedral nestled in the Nottinghamshire countryside, is one of two buildings benefiting from the maximum available grant of £250,000 this year.
The honey-coloured Mansfield stonework of the Minster’s imposing central tower needs urgent repair work which will cost in the region of £600,000. In addition to the English Heritage/Wolfson Foundation grant the Minster has raised £200,000 through pledges from private donors allowing work to start this April. Cathedral officials have described the summit of the tower as an “unwanted roof garden” because its cracked covering allows weeds from bird droppings to sprout and push the ancient stonework further apart.
English Heritage funded a detailed photogrammetric survey of the central tower last year to help the cathedral’s architect to plan the work which will involve the surface repair of stonework and replacing the tower’s concrete roof with more traditional lead on a timber framework. The cost of scaffolding alone will be £60,000 so other works, including the renewal of lightning protection to the tower and the reconstruction of the stair cover and doorway, will be undertaken at the same time.
The Revd Canon Nigel Coates, Acting Dean and Canon Pastor of Southwell Minster, said: "We were so delighted and grateful to the Wolfson Foundation and English Heritage for their generous support for the work needed on our central tower. The award will enable us to continue our programme of maintenance and repair and preserve this jewel in the crown of cathedrals for future generations."