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Midlands cathedrals are truly holey places.

Byline: By Tom Scotney

Cathedrals in the West Midlands are in urgent need of massive funding to save them from crumbling to pieces, heritage campaigners have claimed.

English Heritage has doubled the amount it handed out to cathedrals this year, but Government demands for them to balance the books have hampered the amount that can be given to desperate restoration trusts.

Hereford, Worcester, Lichfield and Coventry have been awarded a total of pounds 259,000 by English Heritage this year, but need much more.

Hereford Cathedral was given the largest of the grants, an pounds 86,000 handout to fix masonry, glazing and leadwork in the south aisle and clerestory.

Cathedral spokesman Glyn Morgan said he welcomed the generous grant, but said the cathedral needed pounds 800,000 to fully complete its five-year restoration project.

He said: "We've been restoring the tower for the last three years, which cost about pounds 750,000. Now we've got to go up to the south nave clerestory.

"We will be looking for another English Heritage grant this year, and we hope to get the rest from a combination of other trusts, and a lottery grant we will be applying for."

Coventry Cathedral is suffering by having to pay for restoration to two cathedrals.

It needs money to stop water seepage under the New Cathedral, which could threaten foundations.

And the ruined cathedral building next to it also needs work on window leading in St Michael's Tower.

Worcester Cathedral has spent more than pounds 10 million on restoration in the past decade, repairing the unique sandston masonry. But the stone needs constant repairing, and the cathedral trust is looking for pounds 350,000 for emergency repairs.

Lichfield Cathedral has been given pounds 22,000 by the heritage fund to repair water spouting in the north side of the nave. Adrian Dorber, the Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, said it needed at least pounds 8 million over the next four or five years to improve facilities, maintain the building and make repairs to shaky fixtures holding in priceless stained glass windows.

English Heritage grants are linked to money raised by individual churches, which forces cathedral trusts to appeal for their own money before being given any Government funding. In 2004, funding cuts by the Government meant English heritage was forced to cut its Cathedral Grants Scheme budget to just pounds 1 million a year.

It is still restricted, but has managed to increase the total handed out to pounds 1.6million after the Wolfson Foundation Charity made a donation.

The Very Rev Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark and spokesman for the Association of English Cathedrals, called for the Government to increase funding.

"The Association welcomes this significant contribution to the repair of cathedrals and gratefully acknowledges the additional funding this year from the Wolfson Foundation," he said.

"But nevertheless, several cathedrals still need really enormous injections of money if conservation is to succeed in the long term. The costs of maintenance alone remain very high, the challenge of meeting them is considerable and at present entirely voluntary.

"We hope the Government's forthcoming spending decisions will recognise both the historic and the wider social and community value of our cathedrals."

Hereford Cathedral has been a site of worship for more than 1,200 years, although the original cathedral was destroyed by a ravaging Welsh army in 1055.

Parts of the cathedral building currently standing date back to 1079, when work began on the Bishop's chapel.

The cathedral held the buried bones of two saints before the tombs were destroyed during the Reformation in the 1500s - Saint Ethelbert and Saint Thomas of Hereford.

It now holds a copy of the Mappa Mundi - the largest and most complete pre-15th century map of the world.

The crypt of Worcester Cathedral dates from the 900s, when it was built by St Osric, the then Bishop of Worcester.

It is said that Worcester was spared destruction in the Reformation because Arthur Tudor, King Henry VIII's older brother, was buried here.

King John asked to be be buried at Worcester Cathedral, before he died in Newark in 1216.

His tomb is in the apse of the cathedral.

The building is nearing the end of a multimillion pound restoration project which has been running since the 1980s. Lichfield Cathedral is the only medieval cathedral with three spires in England.

When the diocese was founded in 669, Lichfield was already considered to be holy, as the site of Christian martyrdoms in Roman times.

The cathedral is famous for its stained glass, which was put in to replace original windows destroyed in the Civil War. It also holds the Lichfield Gospels, 1,300-year-old copies of the gospels of Mark and Matthew.

A couple of years ago, a huge stone angel statue was discovered buried beneath the foundations.

It was recovered and now stands in the cathedral.

St Michael's cathedral, or Coventry Cathedral as it was better known, stood in the city for more than 500 years, until it was destroyed by German bombing in November 1940.

Only the tower and spire and the outer wall survived, but the ruins were kept intact when building work started on the new cathedral, designed by Basil Spence, in 1956.

The new cathedral was built at the same time as the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin.


Coventry Cathedral: Money to stop water seepage; Hereford Cathedral: Needs pounds 800,000; Worcester Cathedral: pounds 350,000 for emergency repairs; Adrian Dorber (left) dean of Lichfield Cathedral, and Alan Taylor, Inspector of Historic Buildings for English Heritage in the West Midlands, outside the cathedral, which needs pounds 8 million Picture, JEREMY PARDOE
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 16, 2007
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