Exeter Cathedral’s Development Appeal Seeks to Secure a Sustainable Future
On Friday 15 July, Exeter Cathedral will embark on its most significant development project for over 100 years. The planned improvements are designed to secure a more sustainable future for the cathedral by attracting more people, providing a better visitor experience, and engaging local communities.
Sir Laurie Magnus, chair of Historic England, will visit the cathedral to officially start the project. He will also launch a new fundraising appeal – the 2020s Development Appeal – to support the work, which has already received Royal Patronage from HRH The Prince of Wales.
Over half of the £10 million that the appeal aims to raise has already been secured, thanks to a £4.3 million grant awarded in May by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. A further £1.9 million has been received from grant-giving trusts, foundations and other donations – some of which have been used to fund essential conservation and improvements to the cathedral’s 13th century Chapter House.
Exeter Cathedral’s Dean and Chapter now want to raise the remaining £3.8 million in a bid to secure a sustainable future for the Devon landmark, which spans Norman and Medieval architectural periods and has been rated as one of Europe’s best cathedrals.
For Sir Laurie, the cathedral represents a significant landmark among the country’s historic places of worship:
“Exeter Cathedral is one of the glories of England’s rich ecclesiastical heritage, filled with many remarkable features and touched by some of the most significant events in our nation’s history.
“It is inspiring to be attending the opening of the newly refurbished Chapter House and the launch of the exciting Development Appeal, to improve the experience of visitors (both local and from outside Devon) by building a new Cloister Gallery and facilitating hugely improved access to the cathedral’s magnificent and unique collections.”
Work on the new Cloister Gallery begins on Friday with a ceremonial cutting of the turf. The new building will provide a sheltered connection between the cathedral and cloister buildings, and link up the refurbished Chapter House.
Overall, approximately half of the Grade I listed heritage site will be conserved and refurbished as part of the project, making the space more inclusive and sustainable for the future. Other works include:
- Introducing a new Treasures Exhibition to publicly display collections from the cathedral’s Library and Archives
- Conservation and interpretation of Exeter Cathedral’s 50 medieval misericords (or ‘mercy seats’), one of only two complete sets surviving in England from before 1290
- The Cathedral Shop will move to a new space outside of the pay barrier
- A new, more sustainable, heating zoning system will be installed
- Installing essential and accessible facilities for all users, including new toilets and lifts
The project will provide wide opportunities for everyone to become involved in their local heritage. As Jonathan Scott, Exeter Cathedral’s Heritage Engagement Manager, explains:
“One of the most important aspects of Exeter Cathedral’s 2020s Development Appeal is how the funding will reach a diverse audience to benefit all the communities of Devon. We want to actively engage a wide range of people to co-create events, works of art and interpretation content.”
The Very Revd Jonathan Greener, Dean of Exeter, hopes that the project will encourage a sense of ownership among local people, helping to ensure Exeter Cathedral continues to serve its community:
“It is so important that we do all we can to preserve this precious piece of Devon heritage for future generations, just as previous generations did for us. We also need to ensure that the cathedral continues to inspire and meet the needs of the people of Devon for the 21st century.
“All of that comes at a significant financial cost. Thanks to National Lottery players and other funders from across the UK, we’re off to a fantastic start. But to reach our £10 million target and secure a sustainable future for Exeter Cathedral, the real work begins now.”
Stuart McLeod, Director England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, is looking forward to witnessing the project unfold:
“We are delighted that thanks to National Lottery players Exeter Cathedral’s 2020s Development Appeal has already got off to a great start. Our funding award of £4.3million will help transform its spaces and experience for future visitors.
“The Cathedral is not only an integral part of the community of Devon but it is a building that has been the centre of so much of Exeter’s history. Investing in heritage such as this makes communities better places to live, creating jobs, supporting local economies, driving tourism and making heritage more accessible to others.
“We’re thrilled to be playing our part in protecting this historic building and are excited to see it evolve and engage a wider range of people with its heritage through this fantastic project.”