02 November 2020, The Tablet

Pugin masterpiece is among churches offered financial aid

Heritage: cash grants to help fix crumbling fabric of the Church’s historic buildings.

Pugin masterpiece is among churches offered financial aid

Westminster Cathedral is among those to benefit from new grants for urgent repairs.
Jonathan Brady/PA

Historic Catholic churches and cathedrals in some of the most deprived areas of England will benefit from a £3 million government grant for urgent repairs.

The money, part of the £1.75 billion Culture Recovery Fund administered by Historic England, will support work halted by the coronavirus pandemic. Repairs to roofs, brick and stonework must be completed by a Treasury deadline of 31 March.

St Mary’s, Great Yarmouth, and St Peter the Apostle, Gorleston, both in Norfolk, are typical of churches where the cost of essential works is well beyond the means of the local congregation. A grant of nearly £150,000 to St Mary’s will go towards roof repairs to prevent further damage to a wall painting in the Shrine of Our Lady of Great Yarmouth. The church was designed in 1850 by the great Catholic Victorian architect, JJ Scoles.

St Peter’s, completed in 1939, is the only church designed by the sculptor, Eric Gill, and features a central altar. The church receives close to £137,000 to replace large rotting windows.

Having been awarded £3m, the patrimony committee of the bishops’ conference presented individual applications to an expert panel of national heritage specialists. The panel also considered applications from the Church of England, which was awarded £10m for 66 of its churches.

The 28 Catholic churches awarded grants are all Grade I and II* listed. They cover the richness and variety of the Catholic Church’s built heritage in England including such gems as St Patrick’s, Toxteth, a Georgian building from the early days of Liverpool’s Irish diaspora. St Patrick’s gets more than £78,000 to treat dry rot that became worse while the church was closed during the lockdown earlier this year.

Edward Pugin’s Gothic Revival masterpiece, All Saints, at Barton-upon-Irwell in Manchester, is awarded almost £85,000 for repairs to the de Trafford Chantry Chapel. Another beneficiary is the Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Simon Stock, Aylesford, by Adrian Gilbert Scott, a treasure house of religious art dating from the 1960s. A grant of more than £200,000 will pay to replace leaking flat roofs.

Westminster Cathedral receives almost £300,000 for repairs to external brickwork. The cathedral’s income has plummeted during the pandemic with visitor numbers down 12 per cent. The shop, exhibition, tower viewing gallery and cafe remain closed.

Also receiving funding are cathedrals at Lancaster, Liverpool, Salford, Newcastle, Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham and Norwich, which gets more than £300,000 for extensive repairs.

England’s most recently designated Catholic cathedral, St Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, Preston, is awarded nearly £130,000 to treat a serious outbreak of dry rot. The church was built by the Jesuits and orig- inally dedicated to St Ignatius. The priest and poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, served as a curate there in the late 1880s. The church had been closed for two years when the Diocese of Lancaster handed it over to the Syro-Malabar Eparchy in 2016, which adopted it as their mother church in Great Britain.

Several churches have won awards with applications earlier refused by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. These included two churches that needed urgent roof repairs: the Holy Name of Jesus, Manchester, receives more than £100,000 and the abbey church of St Laurence, Ampleforth, more than £150,000.

Sophie Andreae, vice chair of the patrimony committee, said the successful churches were in dioceses that engaged conserva- tion architects and surveyors to prepare detailed specifications and to oversee work.

She added: “It is also important that proper quinquennial inspection reports are undertaken ahead of time so that when grant oppor- tunities like this arise at short notice, schemes for urgent repairs can be brought forward quickly and convincingly.”

A separate section of the government’s Culture Recovery Fund has allocated nearly half a million pounds to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral to help with running costs and close to £200,000 to Westminster Cathedral to enhance its online activities.

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