A national scheme to conserve and repair England’s cathedrals from which York Minster was awarded £800,000, has significantly reduced immediate risks, a report published today said.
The £40 million First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund, launched by the Government in 2014, invited applications from Catholic and Church of England cathedrals to address urgent repair works. The fund prioritised making buildings weatherproof, safe and open to the public as well as ensuring they would be in a safe condition to host acts of remembrance for the centenary of the First World War armistice in 2018.
In 2014-2015, the Minster received £300,000 for repairs to the stonework and roof of the Camera Cantorum. Dating from 1415, the two storey structure today houses the Minster shop and a rehearsal space for the Minster’s choristers. In 2016, the Minster was awarded £500,000 to support repair and restoration work on the 11 bays of the Quire Aisle on the south side of the cathedral.
England’s cathedrals contribute more than £220m to the economy each year, drawing in more than 11 million visitors. Each cathedral has the responsibility for raising the funds required for upkeep. However, with no regular Government funding, each cathedral faces an ongoing challenge to maintain their fabric while ensuring comfort, safety and accessibility for all.
A total of 146 awards were made to 57 cathedrals. Twelve cathedrals were awarded more than £1 million each, and the average award was £274,000. Grants were awarded over two phases from 2014 through to 2018.
The recent independent report shows a significant reduction of problems requiring immediate repair as a result of the investment but warned that recipients all had outstanding repairs in areas not covered by the scheme.
Grants were awarded by an independent panel chaired by Sir Paul Ruddock, a position appointed by the Secretary of State. The Fund was administered by the Church of England’s Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division (CCB) on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, with the CCB praised in the report for cost efficiency and excellent communication.
The report concluded that the fund had been successful in achieving its aims and met a funding need that could not be met elsewhere, adding that areas of cathedrals covered by grant-aided projects had been very largely changed from needing urgent repair to needing routine maintenance only.
The Revd Canon Peter Moger, Precentor and Acting Dean of York, said the financial support provided by the fund has revitalised English cathedrals. He said:
“The decision to set up the fund was an acknowledgement of the fact that cathedrals continue to play a vital role in the lives of communities across the country. The fund established a shared sense of purpose and national responsibility to ensure that cathedrals will endure for future generations.
“At York Minster, the funds for the Camera Cantorum helped to preserve a building which links the past and the present. Generations of Minster choristers have trained in that space including 12 choristers and an Alto song man who were killed on active service in the First World War. Today the building is full of life and echoes with the glorious singing of young choristers who rehearse every day in the Camera Cantorum just as their predecessors did.”
The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, the Church of England’s lead bishop for churches and cathedrals said: “Cathedrals such as York Minster are at the forefront of the nation’s acts of remembrance each year, and have huge economic, spiritual and missional impact on their communities.
“This fund has been an imaginative and welcome resource to ensure our cathedrals are fit for this commemoration, as well as underpinning the vital contributions they make to their communities.
“It is vital that we do not stop here, and continue our commitment as a nation to protecting York and all England’s cathedrals for generations to come. We look forward to continuing a constructive dialogue with the Government around future funding collaborations.”