The people of Chichester are about to get their first view of Chichester Cathedral’s new lead roof. Since January 2018, the entire eastern end of this iconic building has been shrouded in scaffolding and now the first phase of a massive £5.8 million roof restoration project is complete. A new, historically authentic, lead roof has replaced the failing copper roof above the Quire and, from Monday 3rd December, the scaffolding will be dismantled and moved to the North and South Transepts where phase two of the project will continue. £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. 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’.
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 timber roof structure underneath.
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 and third phases, the North and South Transepts, in the New Year. It is anticipated that the fourth phase will see the largest expanse of roof covering the nave and western end recovered and restored.
Chichester Cathedral receives no automatic statutory funding and relies wholly on donations, grants and self-generated income.
For more information about the restoration of the High Roofs visit Restoration and Development Trust.
You can support the project by making a donation here.