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Preparations For Chichester Cathedral's Largest Restoration Project Commence... (posted 1 December 2017)

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Preparations for Chichester Cathedral's largest restoration project commence...

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

On Monday 4th December contractors arrive to make site preparations for the re-covering and restoration of Chichester Cathedral’s roof. Those visiting and working in central Chichester in the lead up to Christmas will witness the start of what is thought to be the Cathedral’s largest restoration project in its 900 year history. Working around the busy Advent schedule, a substantial contractor’s compound will be built on the Cathedral Green before scaffolding is erected in late December and January in readiness for the first phase of major restoration and repair to the Cathedral’s roof in the New Year.

Chichester Cathedral’s roof project has moved forward swiftly following the recent confirmation of planning permission. After a comprehensive tender process DBR Ltd, a long standing company with significant previous Cathedral experience, have been appointed. The first phase of the project, the Quire roof, is expected to take around 46 weeks and is the first part of a major project which will see the Quire, South Transept, Nave and North Transept roofs re-covered and restored.

Originally covered in lead, the roofs were re-covered after WW2 using copper when traditional materials were in short supply. Unfortunately, the technical limits of copper on very exposed high roofs were not fully appreciated at the time and the copper was a cause for concern within a decade of its installation.  Despite continual monitoring and repairs, the roof is now leaking and has reached the end of its working-life.

Beneath the failing copper roof lies an exceptional example of medieval timber roofing.  In fact, the Cathedral’s medieval timber roof is of national importance.  Much of the original 13th century medieval roof structure survives for the entire length of the Cathedral, from east to west, providing a rare example of medieval history. 

Rainwater leaking into the roof, combined with well-meaning restoration efforts in the 1940s, and the installation of fire prevention measures in the 1990s which restricted the air flow, have all created an environment conducive to damp, death watch beetle and decay. The historic timber now requires specialist restoration to maintain and preserve the medieval roof structure. 

The project will remove the copper covering, giving unimpeded access to the timber structure for vital restoration work to take place. Given the importance of the medieval timbers the proposed repairs will remove as little as possible of the original, reinforcing rather than replacing. Finally, the project will reinstate the historically authentic lead roof. These repairs and restoration will give the best protection to Chichester Cathedral for generations to come.

The project is estimated to cost £5.8 million. Chichester Cathedral receives no statutory funding relying wholly on donations and self-generated income for its day to day operations. The project will rely on the success of fundraising before each phase can commence. Chichester Cathedral Trust will be launching a roof appeal in January.

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