Christmas cheer for cathedrals

A view of the interior of Gloucester Cathedral, which is to receive a grant towards the repairing and re-covering of the South Aisle roofPA

Christmas has come early for cathedrals in England after hearing they are to receive a million pounds towards their upkeep.

The grants total £952,000 and will be used on 21 repair, conservation and enhancement projects at 17 of the magnificent buildings in the Church of England's care.

It is welcome news for the cathedrals during their busiest season of the year, when more than 100,000 people are expected to pass through their doors for Christmas services.

Among the cathedrals to receive grants are Gloucester, Guildford and Worcester.

Gloucester Cathedral attracts around 300,000 visitors a year and was this year rated second in the country by Which? magazine for the best visitor experience at a historic site. The grant will go towards repairing and recovering the South Aisle roof.

Guildford Cathedral is the only cathedral in southern England to be built on a new site since the Reformation, constructed in the Gothic style between 1936 and 1961. The funds are needed to replace the drainpipes and gutters to cope with the increased rainfall seen in recent years.

At Worcester Cathedral, which receives around 260,000 visitors a year, the grant will be used to repair the stonework of the Nave North Aisle in order to prevent rainwater running down and eroding the 12th century walling.

A sum of £645,000 will be awarded from the Cathedral Fabric Repair Fund, a partnership between the Wolfson Foundation, the Pilgrim Trust and the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England (CFCE).

The fund has given out more than £1.8 million to cathedrals to support their upkeep, including major re-roofing projects and stonework repairs.

Now it is looking for more backers to contribute towards the scheme and help England's cathedrals serve their communities long into the future.

It is estimated that the cathedrals need more than £10 million a year for their care and maintenance, and receive no direct government funding.

Janet Gough, Director, Cathedral and Church Buildings Division of the Archbishops' Council, said: "This is a unique fund supported by grant-giving bodies who understand the need for a strategic funding programme to support critical repairs to our historic cathedrals, which have been and continue to be immensely significant in the nation's life.

"We hope that on the basis of the present successful partnership that the fund will grow with further grant-making funds and private individuals joining in."

Paul Ramsbotton, Chief Executive, The Wolfson Foundation, said: "We are delighted to be funding these buildings of spectacular attraction and significance. We are particularly pleased to see that cathedrals are using our grants to encourage further donations – and to help their ongoing fundraising efforts."

A further £307,000 of cathedral grant funding is being awarded under two separate grant schemes funded by the Church of England.

Grants totalling £236,000 are being made by the Cathedral Amenities Funds. They will be spent on work to stabilise the ruins at Coventry Cathedral, re-paving around Pershore Abbey and Southwell Minster, and work on the main east entrance at Bradford Cathedral.

A total of £71,000 will be offered to Derby, Coventry, Exeter, Salisbury and Wakefield Cathedrals for the conservation of artworks and historic furnishings, including the restoration of the fine organ at Exeter Cathedral and a feasibility study for the conservation of the massive 1962 Graham Sutherland tapestry Christ in Glory at Coventry Cathedral.

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