UK: Ely Cathedral receives vital grant from government’s Culture Recovery Fund

Ely Cathedral’s world famous Lantern Tower is considered one of the greatest engineering feats of the Middle Ages. Designed by William Hurley, the King’s carpenter, in 1334, the lantern is framed by eight 63-feet-tall vertical oak posts 63ft high, each weighing ten tons (Photo: Timothy Selvage)

Ely Cathedral is one of 445 heritage organisations across England who will share £103 million to help restart vital reconstruction work and maintenance on cherished heritage sites. This life-saving boost from the English government is part of the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help them through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding allocated to the Cathedral is to support urgent repairs to Ely’s iconic Lantern Tower. Highly regarded by architects and historians as a feat of medieval engineering, Ely’s famous Lantern (Octagon) Tower was recently found to have serious damage to the lead roof cladding, which, in some areas, had completely corroded exposing the underlying timber structure. This led to serious leaks and internal erosion directly to the area underneath which included the principal altar and Octagon floor – both of which had to be kept covered to protect them from rainwater leaking through the roof.

Due to the financial challenges brought on by COVID-19, these urgent repairs could not have happened without this vital funding is from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage and the Heritage Stimulus Fund – funded by Government and administered by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Other recipients of the Heritage Stimulus Fund included English Heritage, Landmark Trust, Historic Royal Palaces and the Canal and River Trust, who have received £50 million to restart construction and maintenance on cherished heritage sites to preserve visitor attractions and protect livelihoods for some of the most vulnerable heritage specialists and contractors in the sector.

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) has also been awarded a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund through Historic England. The AHF will use the funding to support charities and social enterprises occupying historic buildings to develop new business plans and strategies for organisations affected by the pandemic.

“As a nation, it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounce back post covid,” said Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.

“We are hugely grateful for this recent financial support. The pandemic has meant that we were forced to stop some critical conservation work on Ely Cathedral’s world-famous Lantern Tower. The grant Ely Cathedral has received from the Culture Recovery Fund and Historic England will enable us to resume this vital work to fully restore one of the most significant icons of medieval architecture,” said Clive England, Surveyor to the Fabric at Ely Cathedral, Partner at Thomas Ford and Partners.

“We cannot express how grateful we are to the Government, Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the funding they have provided to carry on this vital work. As the custodians of this magnificent building, we have a duty to ensure it remain standing for future generations. This has been a challenging year for many in the heritage sector and it is heartening to know that steps are being taken to ensure their survival and recovery,” concluded the Dean of Ely, The Very Revd Mark Bonney.