Chichester Cathedral has been awarded a £250,000 grant from the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund towards the urgent recovering and restoration of the Quire roof. The grant marks a very welcome start to one of the Cathedral’s most significant fundraising challenges – to raise £4.8 million to repair and restore the high roofs.
The grant, awarded to Chichester Cathedral’s Restoration and Development Trust, is a significant contribution towards the first phase of the project which begins with the roof of the Quire. This section of the high roof is in most urgent need of repair, estimated to cost £1,324,800. Initial estimates put the total cost of restoring the Cathedral's high roofs at £4.8 million and suggest a programme of work comprising of four phases, commencing with the Quire, followed by the South Transept, Nave, and finally the North Transept.
Much of the Cathedral’s high roofs date from the 13th century (the Nave and Quire) and they are considered to be of exceptional importance as a complete set of roofing from this time, showing in particular the development of English structural carpentry. Originally covered using lead, the high roofs were recovered using copper in the late 1940s, a time when there was a shortage of materials and the technical limits of copper on exposed high roofs were not fully understood. The covering cannot withstand the coastal winds and this has led to damaged roof timbers, masonry and ceiling plasterwork below. Additionally, well-meaning restoration efforts in the 1940s (including encasing medieval timbers in concrete) together with fire prevention measures installed in the 1990s, have exacerbated the problems by restricting air flow and inadvertently creating a damp environment, with death watch beetle and decay. Consequently, the failing copper roof will be replaced with lead, thus restoring the roof’s original covering and appearance – in fact, the Cathedral’s roof has been covered in lead for most of its 900 years.
The First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund is administered by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and provides grants for cathedrals to undertake urgent repair work. Chichester Cathedral incorporates architecture from every century since its foundation in 1108, and so has a very special place among English Cathedrals. The Cathedral’s setting, within a high concentration of listed buildings, provides a central focus within the Chichester Conservation Area.
Through the life of today’s Cathedral, in particular the welcoming of some 300,000 people annually who come for worship and pilgrimage, music and the arts, learning and education, the Cathedral remains a vital and significant part of the local and wider community.
Chichester Cathedral is also one of a reducing number of English Cathedrals maintaining a free entry policy which is enabled by voluntary donations, legacies and grants, and the fundraising efforts of the Restoration and Development Trust. Fundraising successes like this are vital to ensure that the Cathedral can continue to serve the community and its visitors for generations to come.