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Allchurches Trust Awards Grant to Improve Visitor Experience and Support the People of Devon

Exeter Cathedral’s outreach to the wider community of Devon has been given a £25,000 funding boost from Allchurches Trust. Alongside its open grants programmes, Allchurches provides an annual grant to cathedrals and dioceses across the UK and Ireland.


A particular focus for this year’s grant award to Exeter will be essential restoration and improvements to the Cathedral’s 13th century Chapter House. A historically significant building and an important hub for the local community, the Chapter House is used as a space for school assemblies, ‘Wednesday Kitchen’ meals for Exeter’s homeless, the Cathedral’s ‘Cloister Club’ children’s group, flower arrangers and many other volunteer groups.

The Allchurches grant will help to fund improvements to the Chapter House including a proposed glass inner porch, renewed underfloor heating and improved lighting. As the Dean of Exeter, the Very Revd Jonathan Greener explains, each of these improvements is designed to make the space more open, accessible and useful to the community, while also working toward the Cathedral’s goal of becoming carbon neutral.

“A glass inner porch will provide a much needed heat and sound barrier, enabling us to open the big oak doors so people can see in, and automatic doors will allow access for all. The current underfloor heating hasn’t worked since the 1970s so needs to be renewed, and also separated from the main Cathedral boilers, so that it can function independently and much more efficiently.”

Work on the building will also include essential restoration and preservation work, including specialist cleaning and repair of the medieval ceiling, and conservation of important early 14th century paintings which are currently hidden behind late 20th century sculptures.

Proposed restoration and preservation work to the  Chapter House includes specialist cleaning and repair of the medieval ceiling.

Important early 14th century paintings are currently hidden behind 20th century sculptures.

The Chapter House project is to be the first phase of an ambitious plan to restore and improve visitor experience throughout the Cathedral, and for Director of Development, Jill Taylor, Allchurches has been a huge help in supporting planning and preparation:

“The generous grants from Allchurches, both this year and last year, have been critical in helping us to prepare the way for longer term plans that we want to implement over the next decade. They help us to meet match funding targets for other grants, and help with the costs of essential preparation work.”

One such preparation project is a recent archaeological investigation of the Exeter Cathedral Cloisters Garden. The investigation revealed structures of the Cathedral’s 14th century Cloister Walk to guide the design of a proposed new Cloister Gallery. Like the Chapter House improvements, the new Cloister Gallery is designed to make the Cathedral a better, more open and more accessible hub for the local community.

A recent archaeological investigation of the Cloisters Garden revealed structures of Exeter Cathedral’s 14th century Cloister Walk.

But as well as encouraging more people to come into the building, Exeter Cathedral’s outreach initiative also sends ‘the Cathedral’ out into the communities of Devon, with events such as the Choral Scholars’ concert in the Dartmoor town of Chagford – another activity funded with help from Allchurches.

The Choral Scholars’ concert in the Dartmoor town of Chagford (with thanks to Steve Bellman and John Milan for so generously hosting at their home).

An independent charity funded by its ownership of the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, Allchurches Trust places particular emphasis on making changes that benefit the wider community. It is a mission shared by the Dean of Exeter:

“As the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Exeter, it is the role of our Cathedral to be here for the community – the whole community – of Devon. Allchurches helps us to do just that, by making our building more functional, welcoming and accessible, and also by encouraging us to go out from the Cathedral building, into the towns and villages, bringing our worship, music and pastoral care to the people of Devon.”

Allchurches Trust Grants Officer, Paul Playford, added:

“I’m delighted that, through our funding, Exeter Cathedral has been able to extend its welcome to people of all ages in the wider community, including to those most in need in these difficult times. Its ambitious plans will ensure the future preservation of this heritage gem, but also ensure that this magnificent building and its gardens can be enjoyed by many more people in the years to come.”