Ecclesiastical entrepreneur's latest venture: Cathedral branded gin

A North of England cathedral is harking back to medieval times today with the launch of its own brand of gin.

Branded 'Cathedra' and made by Brindle Distillery in Lancashire, Blackburn Cathedral's gin is aimed at capitalising on the gin revival and generating revenue for the cathedral's ministry.

Dean Peter Howell Jones with his Cathedra gin.Blackburn Cathedral

'This is not a novelty; this is a cathedral doing business,' said the dean, Very Rev Peter Howell Jones.

'Blackburn is not a tourism centre, it is not a rich part of the world, and we need to reach out to markets beyond our town and region to be sustainable long term.

'Gin is on trend; it is a developing market, and there is a long history of monastic communities brewing mead, wines and beers.'

He added: 'I wanted to create a brand that would work across the country; that could create a income stream from which all English cathedrals can benefit.'

In the shorter term, the dean hopes Cathedra will be one of a number of fundraising ventures to raise the £1m match-funding needed to redevelop Blackburn's crypt into a community and conferencing facility, and an exhibition and heritage space that tells the region's rich history of Lancashire's cotton towns and the faith that underpinned them.

He also hopes it will provide an income stream to support the cathedral's education and music development programme, tcurrently reaching 6,500 children across 160 schools.

'It's about engaging with people; that's our core business,' he added.

Cathedra gin will first be unveiled to an audience of business leaders and civic dignitaries at the Dean's Dinner in Blackburn Cathedral tonight, when it will be offered alongside Prosecco as an aperitif. It is also available online

Jones himself has previously demonstrated an entrepreneurial flair. While serving as vice dean at Chester Cathedral he opened a falconry centre in the grounds and was instrumental in bringing last year's Ark exhibition to the cathedral. The exhibition included Damian Hirst's Golden Calf alongside works by Jacob Epstein and Elizabeth Frink, and featured over 90 different artists securing the cathedral the 2017 'Tourism Experience or Event of the Year' in the local Cheshire Life Awards.

'It is imperative that cathedrals commercially engage with different groups of people. We should not be afraid to engage with all aspects of society,' he said.