Conservation in Action

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Winchester Cathedral is a Grade 1 listed ancient scheduled monument that lies within Winchester’s Conservation Area in what is described in Pevsner as ‘architecturally the richest cathedral city in England. The Cathedral played a central role in England’s history throughout the middle ages and may lay claim to be one of the most significant historic buildings in Britain. Winchester Cathedral and its associated precinct form a key central part of the city. The Cathedral is a dominant building in every respect, with a long and complex history. The multi-layered archaeology and built fabric and art treasures bring with them a variety of conservation issues as well as great opportunities for engagement.

A building of this size and complexity, however, carries with it a major conservation and maintenance programme. The roof, which has about 500 tons of lead covering, has a finite life and eventually needs to be replaced, and the windows and stonework are subjected to the ravages of the weather and are in constant need of repair. While conservation and maintenance is an ongoing process, there are currently 3 areas requiring urgent repair, namely the South Presbytery roof which is leaking, the Presbytery High Vault which has been damaged by water ingress, and the 15th and 16th Century medieval glass, parts of which have fallen out and need to be replaced. The lead cames holding the windows in place are also badly damaged.

In September 2012 the Cathedral won a national Heritage Lottery Fund award of £10.5 million for the Kings and Scribes – The Birth of a Nation project. This project, which also requires additional funding by the Cathedral, provides for the repairs outlined above plus the installation of exhibitions in the Cathedral’s South Transept. The project has three main aims:

  •  To help more people learn about the Cathedral and its history through a broader range of more enjoyable learning opportunities and updating and expanding the Cathedral’s educational facilities, including building a new Learning Centre.
  • To extend the ministry and mission of the Cathedral to many more people and transform the experience of visitors through creating new exhibitions which unlock the Cathedral’s hidden treasures.   Our stunning 12th Century illuminated Winchester Bible – which is in urgent need of conservation and better display – and the story of the contents of the Cathedral’s six mortuary chests, believed to contain the remains of pre-Conquest monarchs, will be at the centre of new exhibitions in the South Transept.
  • To preserve the Cathedral for generations to come by tackling the mounting need for conservation, maintenance and repair of the building’s fabric – the roof, vaults, windows, sound and lighting in particular.

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Winchester Cathedral HLF Information Film from Winchester Cathedral on Vimeo.