Guildford Cathedral will not close, church officials insist

Guildford Cathedral

Officials at Guildford Cathedral are insisting the beleagured building will remain open in spite of crippling financial difficulties.

Restorers working to resolve issues with asbestos at the large 20th-century red-brick structure told the BBC that its doors will remain open.

They spoke out after the Archbishop of Canterbury warned earlier this year that the cathedrals of England are not 'too big to fail'. A new working group has been set up to look at financial problems at other cathedrals as well as Guildford.

And they were bullish about the cathedral remaining open, even though, as Guildford Cathedral told Christian Today, 'The situation has not changed since we issued our statement in February. Chapter is still awaiting the advice it needs before deciding on the next steps.'

Guildford has an annual deficit of £100,000 and was recently refused permission for a housing development next to the cathedral that would have generated income.

In a letter to Guildford council, Welby said in advance of the decision: 'Naturally there are ways of offering assistance and advice, but it is extremely unlikely that any part of the Church would be able to compensate financially for the effects of this development not going ahead.

'I hope that anyone who has been misinformed on this point will understand that the future of Guildford's Cathedral rests very much in the decision the council makes.'

The cathedral, designed by Sir Edward Maufe and built in the last century in the brutalist style of the period between the two world wars and the 1960s, is arguably one of the Britain's ugliest. It does look beautiful at night, however, when lit up by numerous electric lights, and when it is a sight to contemplate for drivers as they whiz past on the nearby A3.

It is also spacious and aesthetically pleasing to some on the inside, although the acoustic qualities of such a cavernous space can present challenges for the choir and those listening or singing in the congregation.

And while drivers might enjoy the view, few are inspired by it actually to stop and visit the actual building or make a contribution to its upkeep.

Welby wrote: 'I appreciate the striking picture that Guildford Cathedral makes, sitting alone on its hill. However this picture is not one that the cathedral wishes to present; it wishes to be rooted deeply in providing solace and joy to all who live in its diocese. Cathedrals are living buildings which thrive on welcoming people in; medieval cathedrals are often crowded around with houses, as at Lincoln or York.'

The 134 new homes on Stag Hill would have given the cathedral £2 million and an annual income of a few hundred thousand pounds. However, even this development would have fallen well short of the £17.2 million needed to save it.

Bishop of Guildford Andrew Watson had warned there was a real possibility of the cathdral 'closing its doors' as a result.