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Chichester Cathedral launches its High Roof Restoration Appeal (posted 16 February 2018)

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Chichester Cathedral Launches its High Roof Restoration Appeal

Aerial view of the Cathedral
Aerial view of the Cathedral

On Friday 16th February at 11am, Chichester Cathedral launched its High Roof Appeal - a fundraising campaign to raise £5.8 million for the urgent repair, restoration and recovering of Chichester Cathedral's roof.

Thanks to the generosity of supporters and grant-making trusts, Chichester Cathedral Restoration and Development Trust has currently raised just over £3 million towards the overall £5.8 million project costs.  Working to support the project's timetable the Cathedral has approximately 900 days to raise the outstanding £2.8 million.  Since January, visitors to the Cathedral will have witnessed preparations for the first phase of this vital project.

Despite ongoing repairs, the current copper roof cannot keep the Cathedral watertight.  Rainwater leaks through the roof, damaging historic masonry and plasterwork, and ruining the medieval timber underneath.  An urgent repair and restoration programme is now underway to replace the failing copper roof with a more historically authentic lead roof, and restore the historic roof structure underneath.

Chichester Cathedral High Roofs Restoration
The scaffolding goes up

As part of the launch on Friday 16th February, Chichester Cathedral invited members of the media to step back in time 900 years for an unprecedented 'behind the scenes' tour of the Cathedral's medieval roof.  Media representatives began their unique journey by climbing over 100 steps up to the ancient medieval roof vault.  The Cathedral roof is of national importance and extremely rare: in fact, beneath the current copper roof, for the entire length of the Cathedral from east to west, lies much of the original 13th century medieval roof structure.  In a major study of 1980, the renowned craftsman Cecil Hewett described the Cathedral roofs as 'among the least spoiled and most important roofs in the kingdom'.  Visitors were able to see the historic oak timbers felled by order of Henry III for the specific construction of this magnificent building. 

Visualisation of the Cathedral once the project is completed
Visualisation of the Cathedral once the project is completed

These massive timbers still bear the marks made by the medieval craftsmen who toiled to create this impressive space. 

A final flight of spiral stone stairs led outside onto the base of the Spire, offering breath-taking views of Chichester, the South Downs and the nearby coastline.  From this vantage point, guests were able to get a close-up view of the failing copper roof and the enormous scaffold newly erected to enable the work.

Chichester Cathedral's High Roof was originally covered using lead but replaced with copper in the late 1940s, during a post-World War Two period 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 work the sheets loose.  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.

Read more about the Roof Restoration Project
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