Cash concerns for England's Anglican cathedrals

Interior of Southwark Cathedral Image copyright Getty Images

Almost two-thirds of those running England's Anglican cathedrals are concerned about their finances, a BBC survey suggests.

Of the 38 cathedrals who responded fully, 26 said they were "worried" or "very worried" about the future.

Last year, the Church of England gave £8.3m to the historic buildings but the cash does not cover all of their needs.

Some cathedrals are now looking to new ways of fundraising including hiring the buildings out as venues.

Of the 42 Anglican cathedrals in England, 38 are Grade I listed and expensive to maintain - with some absorbing daily running costs of £4,000.

The challenge lies in maintaining a balance between needing to raise large sums of money and keeping the building as a spiritual space.

But cathedrals are often also the largest building available for public use in their area and are increasingly being used as places for concerts, lectures and even banquets.

Very few places have historic funds. People imagine we're sitting on large treasure chests from the past. That isn't the case.

Andrew Nunn, dean of Southwark Cathedral
Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral in London has been running a conference centre since 2000, which its dean, the Very Reverend Andrew Nunn, said was essential.

"You have to be really imaginative and think what's going to be the most appropriate business model for my cathedral in this place at this time," he said.

"We're next to the Shard, very glittery, very glamorous, people want to access us for conferences. That wouldn't necessarily be the case in other parts of the country.

"Very few places have historic funds. People imagine we're sitting on large treasure chests from the past. That isn't the case."

Anglican cathedral money

Most of those running cathedrals have concerns about their funding


Anglican cathedrals


have bosses worried or very worried about funding within two years

  • 8 cathedrals charge for entry

  • 3 increased the fee in the last year

  • 20% of income from donations

  • 9% of income from commercial use

Lincoln Cathedral

The Very Reverend Christopher Armstrong, dean of Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire, said he was "very worried" about the future.

"We're a northern cathedral, we're not on the tourist track, so we don't get any money from tourists.

"Like most cathedrals, we are in the red most of the time and if we are going to be sustainable we're going to have to change that."

Three-quarters of those running cathedrals agree that turning their buildings into multiple use venues is "essential" and say they should be "open to non-faith based and commercial organisations".

Blackburn is just about to complete an £8m redevelopment in partnership with the local council, which they hope will put the cathedral in the black.

Canon Andrew Hindley, who is in charge of the project, said he planned to rent out a new refectory, conference room, library and spaces in the cathedral garden.

He sees no contradiction in using a sacred site for non-religious purposes.

"William Temple, the Bishop of Manchester who founded Blackburn Cathedral, wanted this place to do all sorts of things including recreation. In the 1930s he even wanted it to have a cinema, it was to be state of the art," Canon Hindley said.

"We've tried to follow and update that vision to make sure that people actually want to come and be a part of life in Blackburn. It's all about being part of the whole, not just one little bit of Sunday worship once a week."

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