Dean of Lichfield Cathedral welcomes funding recommendation

Lichfield Cathedral. Pic: James Stringer

Lichfield Cathedral. Pic: James Stringer

The Dean of Lichfield Cathedral has welcomed a recommendation from the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts that cathedrals should receive direct funding from Government.

The recommendation, contained in the Committee’s newly-published report on Promoting Participation with the Historic Environment, states: “English cathedrals represent some of our most important architectural heritage yet many of them charge the public for entry.  These buildings are expensive to look after and the Department and English Heritage should work together to find ways to fund their conservation so that they can be less reliant on charging for entry, which could deter people from visiting.”

Welcoming the recommendation, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber said:

“This is a clear recognition of the importance of English Cathedrals to the communities and the regional economies they serve.  We have a real opportunity to attract and draw people to Lichfield but we need to be able to offer them the facilities they expect and be able to care for and conserve the Cathedral and its environment with great professionalism and skill.

“We are keen to develop our friendly links with the National Memorial Arboretum and all the other Staffordshire and Heart of England places of interest, so that the full story and history of this part of the world can be explored by visitors and local residents alike.  We are really excited at the prospect of being part of the officially designated Mercian trail that will exhibit the Staffordshire Hoard of recently discovered Saxon Treasure.”

“Many of our visitors find the Cathedral a place where they can open up their memories and personal hurts and find some healing and peace; many find the place awe inspiring and intensely interesting.  With the help of a small army of dedicated volunteers we offer a welcome and hospitality to visitors and pilgrims from across the UK and abroad.

“Cathedrals are also great shop windows for the rest of the Church of England and we help a lot of people make connections with faith and the life of the Church.  We had 16,000 people attend our Advent and Christmas services in 2009 and we are delighted to offer that ministry to so many.

He also believes that Government funding would help ease soaring costs associated with the upkeep of Lichfield Cathedral – and also allow the Church to retain its open-door policy.

The Very Revd Adrian Dorber explained:

“We have crippling repair bills.  We are embarked on a £3.4 million project to repair and conserve the entire east end of the Cathedral including work on our renowned Flemish windows that rival those of King’s College Cambridge for their artistic importance. We must renew and replace our electrics at a cost of £700,000 and complete some more urgent stone work repairs at a cost of a further £1 million.

“And as much as people love coming here all our visitors and users tell us we have inadequate lavatory provision and we are not doing enough to help people with disabilities gain access to the Cathedral.

“We do not make a charge for entry to the Cathedral and we would like to keep this tradition of open hospitality going.  More public funding would ensure the Cathedral’s physical health and its continued availability to all sections of the public.

“I look forward to seeing how the Government and all political parties respond to the challenge put down by the Public Accounts Committee.”

Frank Field MP, Chairman of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England , said:

“This is the first time Parliament has asked the Government for some direct funding for cathedrals.  At last Parliament sees the importance of cathedrals in earning money for this country, in expanding local employment and above all as part of the face we wish to show to the world.

“Maintenance is not the only or even the principal matter, when it comes to cathedrals charging for entry.  The charges are largely devoted to meeting the costs that arise from presenting the buildings to the public, such as stewarding and special exhibits.”

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