UK Government

English Heritage: English Heritage study reveals state of the nation’s great Cathedrals

Press Release   •   Dec 01, 2009 11:01 GMT

Projects at St Paul’s and Westminster Cathedrals earn praise in new report

English Heritage has today (Tuesday, 1 December) unveiled the results of a major survey into the state of the nation’s great cathedrals, whilst also highlighting two London  cathedrals for undertaking striking projects in a new report.

The English Heritage Cathedrals Fabric Condition Survey 2009 reveals that:

-          cathedrals have spent more than £250 million on repairs since 1991 and almost all critical work has been done

-          they have spent nearly £90 million on repairs since 2001 and over the same period have spent nearly £90 million on new works to add to their splendour and make themselves more welcoming to visitors

-          over the next 10 years cathedrals need to spend some £100 million on repairs

-          six cathedrals still need to carry out major repair programmes in the next 10 years: Canterbury - £16m; York - £8m; Lincoln - £13m or more; Salisbury - £15m; Chichester - £10m; and Winchester - £4m.

Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: Paddy Pugh, English Heritage Regional Director for London, said:  “Our Fabric Survey shows that cathedral bodies are taking excellent care of the heritage in their keeping. Our new publication shows what can be achieved with the aid of English Heritage advice and by individual cathedrals working with their Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches’ governing bodies. Above all it shows that cathedrals continue to evolve, adding to their glories with a thriving tradition of commissioning the highest standards of new architecture, craftsmanship and design.

“Our first fabric survey in 1991 revealed that many cathedrals were in a dire state. Today, having spent £250 million, they are in much better shape though constant vigilance is still required if these national treasures are not to slip again into decline. English Heritage, recently in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation, has given £52 million and we remain as committed as ever.

Between 1991 and 2009 English Heritage pledged over £50m for cathedral repairs, most recently with the support of the Wolfson Foundation. Total funding allocated to London cathedrals was:

St Paul’s - £1,920,500
Southwark CE - £420,000
Southwark RC - £147,500
Westminster RC - £1,092,500

Today English Heritage also unveiled a new publication, Creativity and Care: New Works in English Cathedrals, which shows how 16 cathedrals are facing the future by commissioning exciting new projects, including St Paul’s and Westminster Cathedrals.

The South Courtyard, a new public space at St Paul’s Cathedral, has been called an eye-catcher in the report. The courtyard owes it origins to a more basic requirement of disabled access - before 2008 the arrangements by which wheelchair users could get into St Paul’s were becoming untenable.

People had to wait by an unprepossessing door in the angle between the south aisle and the south transept. The lift beyond was too small for many modern wheelchairs and was nearing the end of its operational life. Alterations to the door also suggested changes to the route approaching it.

St Paul’s has long sought ways to show that Old St Paul’s was one of the greatest buildings of medieval Christendom and this is now where the South Courtyard lies - upon the ground plan of the chapter house and cloister of Old St Paul’s.  This idea appealed to the City Corporation of London, who helped fund the £3.8 million project.

The great octagon of the chapter house is marked into the South Courtyard’s stone pavement, its mouldings making a series of delicate curves within the overall design.

Nearby the plan of Old St Paul’s itself is shown, and its relationship with the current structure made clear. To one side, subtle signage and a low ramp explain the space and enable wheelchair users to reach the door.

The original railings, taken down in the 1980s, have been reinstated. All this has been done in Purbeck marble, a major new work by the inheritors of one of England’s most famous medieval crafts: indeed, the lost chapter house itself made much use of this material. When polished, this stone has a dark, glossy, crisp quality, used in medieval buildings to scintillating effect. Today, it sits quietly beneath the feet of city workers on their lunch breaks, a permanent reminder of an illustrious past.

The publication also highlights Westminster Cathedral for its impressive mosaics.  Today’s inheritors to John Francis Bently’s great Bynzantine cathedral remain determined to complete his wishes to fill every upper space in the building with mosaics designs.

The most recent images are those of Cardinal Newman and St Francis. The Newman mosaic, funded by a £20,000 donation and designed by famous portraitist Tom Phillips, was installed in 2008; Newman has since become a candidate for beatification. It is adjacent to a calligraphic mosaic on the theme of the Dream of Gerontius, designed by the same artist and installed in 2003.

These images celebrate one of the most significant of modern English Catholics, and mark the role of the Cathedral, with its famous choir school, as a patron and promoter of music.

A more personal story underlies the mosaic of St Francis, by Leonard McComb. It is one of a pair – the other is St Anthony – at the west end of the church. These mosaics commemorate two brothers, Anthony and Mgr Francis Bartlett, both closely associated with the Cathedral; the mosaics were paid for through their own bequest. Other recent installations include the impressive £300,000 redecoration of the Chapel of St Joseph and the Holy Family, by Christopher Hobbs in 2006.

£500,000 is currently being sought to complete the decoration of St George’s Chapel with scenes of the English Martyrs, and a donor is awaited for decoration of St Patrick’s Chapel: designs for both, approved by the cathedral’s Art and Architecture Committee, the Archbishop, and the Historic Churches Committee, have been worked up.

This remarkable series of architectural artworks displays a respect for the Byzantine-cum- Arts and Crafts traditions of the cathedral itself. Within this it has proved possible to develop a range of stylistic approaches. At Westminster, the project of completion constitutes a continuing programme of art commissioning; indeed, in the process, a miniature history of the craft of mosaic in Britain is being created.

The Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chairman of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission at the Church of England, said: “Roman Catholic and Anglican cathedral authorities alike are not only custodians of past splendours: they can also be wise and willing midwives to future glories. We hope Creativity and Care will encourage cathedral bodies to think in the boldest terms about their building’s future, rather than scale down their ambitions to what they think will be approved.”

The publication, Care and Creativity, a gallery of images of new works, information on the Cathedrals Fabric Survey and how to apply for a grant, are all available on - Free hard copies of Care and Creativity can be ordered from English Heritage Customer Services on 0870 333 1181 -

Notes to editors

Creativity and Care: New Works in English Cathedrals has a preface by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Westminster and explores the way in which cathedrals are succeeding in remaining first and foremost places of Christian worship while also fulfilling roles as cultural centres and tourist attractions. Some of the works result from changes to liturgical practice - the way services are performed - and what today’s worshippers want as a focus for their spirituality. Some new works result from modern safety and accessibility requirements.

For images,

Please visit where captioned images can be downloaded from an English Heritage folder called Cathedrals 2009. Alternatively contact Ellie Hughes at English Heritage Corporate Communications on 0207 973 3250 or

Media calls to Lorraine Calvey, COI,

on 020 7261 8872




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