Repair fund helps Rochester Cathedral prepare for First World War commemorations

A national scheme to conserve and repair England’s cathedrals from which Rochester cathedral was awarded over £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.

Rochester Cathedral Received a total of £823,000 which helped to repair and replace aging roof structures.

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 2014-18.

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. 

Rochester Cathedral expects to welcome increased visitor numbers throughout 2018 for First World War commemorations. The Cathedral is joining organisations across Medway in hosting the ‘5,000 Poppies’ exhibition this November.  The exhibition features thousands of poppies knitted by the local community to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War.  Throughout the summer we will be giving visitors the opportunity to knit poppies here at the Cathedral. 

The Dean of Rochester, the Very Reverend Dr Philip Hesketh Dean’s name said: “Rochester Cathedral is the second oldest of England’s Anglican cathedrals and one of its smallest. Rochester, like the rest of the nation’s cathedrals, has seen a welcome rise in the numbers of worshippers and visitors, proving yet again that cathedrals remain at the heart of our nation. Cathedrals will also be at the forefront of the nation’s acts of remembrance this year as we commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War. How fitting then that the First World War Centenary Repair Fund, launched by the Government in 2014, has helped to fund urgent repair work to ensure that this ancient cathedral can host local commemorative events. Without the Fund the work to repair and replace large parts of our aging roof structures simply could not have taken place.”

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