Repair fund helps Newcastle Cathedral prepare for First World War commemorations

Posted on: July 17th, 2018

A national scheme to conserve and repair England’s cathedrals, from which Newcastle Cathedral was awarded a total of £180,572 across two projects, 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.

Newcastle Cathedral’s grants have helped to secure the roof of the Thomlinson Library, a 1736 extension to the Cathedral by James Gibbs and enabled investigation of the damp in the Cathedral’s 14th century crypt and east end and its causes and remedies.

Newcastle Cathedral Thomlinson Library (Photo Credit Purcell Architects)

Newcastle Cathedral Crypt Space 1932 (Photo Credit Purcell Architects)

Work to repair the library roof included replacement of lead and external timber, gutters, downpipes and masonry, together with security measures on the adjacent choir windows. The works were completed on schedule. Work to investigate the damp in the crypt included analysis of temperature and humidity readings in the crypt from the beginning of the monitoring to date, desk research on events in the immediate vicinity in recent years including various leaking drains, and an archaeological evaluation undertaken by Newcastle Cathedral Archaeologist, David Heslop.

The completion of this work comes at an extremely exciting time for Newcastle Cathedral. Thanks to National Lottery players, the Cathedral can now progress with the initial stage of its ambitious Common Ground in Sacred Space project with a grant of £357,900 awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to develop a £6m scheme that will transform the nave, renew visitor facilities and reshape external spaces. The work will reclaim the Cathedral’s historic role within the community, meeting the needs of new and diverse audiences including the marginalised and vulnerable, residents and tourists, and will ensure the Cathedral’s sustainability for many decades to come.

The Dean Elect of Newcastle, The Venerable Geoff Miller, said: “We are delighted with the work the WW1 Centenary Fund has supported. Our Thomlinson Library is now in good shape, with a watertight roof. Prior to the work the area required urgent attention; now there is no further work needed at present. In addition, although the cause of damp in the crypt has yet to be fully identified, the project has helped progress the analysis and the Cathedral Architect is currently monitoring the situation.

The Venerable Geoff Miller continued: “Completion of this valuable work is timely. The Cathedral has been very generously supported by so many over the years and we are extremely grateful to the Fund for making initial transformative work possible. Now, with significant financial support from the HLF, Newcastle Cathedral will be able to move forward to the next level of regeneration and bring our exciting redevelopment plans to life.”

In 2014, Newcastle Cathedral began a program of events and bell ringing to mark the loss of every Newcastle Guild of Bell Ringers who fell in the First World War. The current Newcastle Guild of Bell Ringers ring 100 tolls on the anniversary of each of those deaths. The four year-long bell ringing commemoration will culminate with a full peal nearer to Armistice Day 2018.

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.

In 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 between 2014 and 2018.

Today’s 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 & 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 Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, the Church of England’s lead bishop for churches and cathedrals said: “Cathedrals such as Newcastle 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 Newcastle and all England’s cathedrals for generations to come. We look forward to continuing a constructive dialogue with the Government around future funding collaborations.”