Repair fund helps Portsmouth Cathedral prepare for First World War commemorations

Wednesday 18th July, 2018

A national scheme to conserve and repair England’s cathedrals from which Portsmouth cathedral was awarded £952,836 and has significantly reduced immediate risks, a report published Tuesday 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.

Portsmouth Cathedral as it appeared in 2016 - the tower is still clad in scaffolding, but the newly restored 'Golden Barque' has just been restored. (Credit Portsmouth Cathedral)

Portsmouth Cathedral Received a total of £952,836 which helped to restore the interior and exterior fabric of the Cathedral, most notably the Cathedral Tower which was facing potential collapse from deterioration.

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. 

Portsmouth Cathedral expects to welcome increased visitor numbers throughout 2018 for First World War commemorations, including those marking the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Canon Peter Leonard, The Acting Dean of Portsmouth, said: “The First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund has been instrumental in ensuring that Portsmouth Cathedral can continue to offer transformative worship, generous hospitality, challenging discipleship and prayerful engagement for the people of Portsmouth and beyond. The fund has had an incredibly positive impact to the local and wider community and we are very grateful that it has enabled us to secure the future of this beautiful, sacred building.”

The MP for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said: “Portsmouth Cathedral has been witness to so many important events for our nation and always provides a warm welcome to the people of Portsmouth and visitors to our great city. Thanks to the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repair Fund, Portsmouth Cathedral will continue to serve our community for generations to come.”

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


Church of England Cathedrals:

Portsmouth is one of 42 Church of England Cathedrals across England Together, cathedrals:

  • Generate £220million for the national economy
  • Employ 7,380 people
  • 11.3 million adults go to a cathedral annually (27% of the UK population)
  • 320,000 school children visit each year
  • 14,760 volunteers, giving 1.96 million hours a year, a rise of 15% between 2006 and 2016.
  • 78% of people living in a city with a cathedral felt it was at the heart of their city
  • 59% of people nationally consider that cathedrals belong to the whole community not just the Church of England
  • 37,000 people per week attended cathedral services in 2016
  • 53,000 attended Easter and 131,000 attended Christmas cathedral services in 2016

Sources: The economic and social impacts of England’s cathedrals, Ecorys, 2014

Spiritual Capital: The Present and Future of English Cathedrals, Theos and The Grubb Institute, 2012

Church of England Statistics for Mission, 2016.  The evaluation report was compiled by ERS Research & Consultancy Ltd.

Portsmouth Cathedral