Dean of Guildford Cathedral, the Very Revd Dianna Gwilliams, on how the refurbishment works are going and how the cathedral is responding to some recent challenges.
Firstly, the cathedral seems to be full of scaffolding – what’s going on? Is it open for business?
“Of course! The Cathedral is open 365 days of the year. We’re currently removing plaster from the ceiling, renewing the sound and lighting systems, installing a ramp and a lift to improve access, and redecorating throughout. In the nave and crossing there is a scaffolding deck and above that there are four more floors of scaffolding in the nave and six more floors in the crossing, so it really is an amazing feat of engineering, and nothing like it has ever been done before. The scaffolding will be removed by the summer and some parts of the project are already completed.”
And how have you been able to fund the project?
“We’ve raised just over £6.9m to date which includes a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, but in order to get the grant we needed to raise £1.3m ourselves, which was achieved in record time thanks to the generosity of people of our diocese.”
That sounds good, but what of the future, now that Guildford Borough Council has refused planning permission for the development on Stag Hill?
“Well, the Cathedral Chapter worked for more than eight years to develop this plan which was to secure an endowment for the future, so we are naturally very disappointed. We believe the submission was thorough and detailed, so having received recommendation for approval from the borough planners and senior council officials, it’s a shame that it was not granted permission on this occasion. At the moment we’re in the process of taking advice about the next steps in our application, but we remain hopeful of a way forward.”
"It’s a shame that it was not granted permission on this occasion. At the moment we’re in the process of taking advice about the next steps in our application, but we remain hopeful of a way forward."
There has been talk that the Cathedral might have to close – is that the case?
“We have cashflow issues like every other cathedral in the Church of England and, being only 60 years old or so, we don’t have the reserves that some places have built up over the centuries. That’s why we need to create the endowment. Until that time we’ll need to try to make our income stretch to cover more of our regular outgoings. We work hard at our commercial activities, our stewardship and our fundraising. We have some reserves and some investments and manage our budget very carefully, but it is a real challenge to balance the books.”
"We have some reserves and some investments and manage our budget very carefully, but it is a real challenge to balance the books."
Tell us about life in the cathedral – what’s going on?
“Our regular pattern of daily and Sunday services has continued throughout the building works, but we have lots of other events which draw in large numbers of people to the cathedral and marquee alike. We’ve recently hosted a diocesan young carers event, with circus skills and fellowship for young people who care for members of their families, passing out celebrations for Surrey Police and graduations for the University of Surrey, charity abseiling events, outdoor cinema in the summer, concerts and much more. And if you haven’t yet been, come along to one of our free monthly coffee concerts, which regularly welcome over 100 members of the community from residential care homes.
- Forthcoming events include the popular Family Fun Days on 29 April and 31 May and the Beacon Event at the conclusion of Thy Kingdom Come 2017 on the afternoon and evening of 4 June.
For more information on what is happening at the cathedral go to www.guildford-cathedral.org