CHICHESTER Cathedral’s iconic green roof is being replaced piece by piece with a grey one.
Since January, the entire eastern end of the building has been shrouded in scaffolding and now the first phase of the £5.8 million roof restoration project is complete.
A new, historically authentic, lead roof is replacing the damaged copper roof above the Quire. The scaffolding was moved this week to the North and South Transepts where phase two of the project continues.
A huge, £3.8 million has been raised to support the restoration, with a further £2 million still needed.
Working by hand and using techniques similar to those used by the original craftsmen in the 13th century, specialists have meticulously repaired, restored and recovered the Quire roof.
Battling snow, howling gales – and then a heatwave – work has seen decaying medieval timbers repaired using locally sourced Sussex oak, and 27 tonnes of English lead lifted on to the roof. A total of 360 individual panels of lead, each weighing 75kg (nearly 12 stone), have all been secured by hand.
The cathedral’s roof is of national importance and extremely rare. Beneath the roof covering lies much of the 13th century medieval roof structure, described by the renowned craftsman Cecil Hewitt as one of the ‘most important roofs in the kingdom’. Dame Patricia Routledge, Roof Appeal patron said: ‘This is a very important appeal because it concerns everybody in the wider community. It’s our history, it’s our heritage and it’s our meeting place’.
The entire roof project includes the Quire, South Transept, North Transept and Nave roofs, covering 932m2 – and is estimated to cost £5.8 million. Having completed the first phase of this major project, work will commence on the second phase, the North and South Transepts, in the new year.
The Dean of Chichester, the Very Rev Stephen Waine, said: “We’ve got a really good team working on this project and so the progress has been absolutely fantastic and we are delighted to be where we are today.
“The green roof is in a sense iconic and when you look down at the cathedral from the South Downs it’s once of the things you notice about this cathedral.
“The roof has only been green since the late 1940s at the end of the Second World War when the roof was replaced with copper because there was a shortage of lead. But up until then, the roof had always been grey, it had always been lead.
“Any support that the Chichester Post readers feel they can give to the fundraising campaign for the sake of preserving the cathedral for future generations would be most gratefully received.”
Chichester Cathedral receives no automatic statutory funding and relies wholly on donations, grants and self-generated income. The cathedral’s Restoration & Development Trust raised a starting fund (which included a grant from the World War One Centenary Cathedral’s Repair Fund) before launching a public appeal earlier this year.
As a result of the generosity of individuals and grant-making trusts – including a recent significant £300,000 grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation – the first phase has been completed.
Appeal chairman Daniel Hodson said: “The generosity of so many individuals and organisations confirms that Chichester Cathedral is a much-loved landmark. £3.8 million has now been raised for the first two phases of this vital project. However, we have a further £2 million still to raise and we must continue with our fundraising effort to ensure 350,000 visitors can continue to come to Chichester each year to explore and be inspired.”
Chichester Cathedral’s roof was originally covered using lead but replaced with copper in the late 1940s, after World War Two, when there was a shortage of lead. The technical limits of copper were not fully known at the time and the copper was a cause for concern within a decade of its installation.
Lighter than lead, copper panels are lifted by coastal winds causing cracks to appear and loosening the panels. Lead is used on prestigious royal and religious buildings throughout the country and brings a longevity that far surpasses copper. Once completed, the lead roof will return the cathedral to how it used to look.