A community vision stretching beyond the cathedral walls

CHURCH

An annual grant from Allchurches Trust is supporting Exeter Cathedral in its vision to improve the cathedral’s visitor experience and reach out and support the wider Devon community.

Exeter Cathedral is one of England’s great heritage gems and one of the finest examples of gothic architecture in the world.

In a bid to share its wonders with the Devon community and support local people, the cathedral is undertaking three major projects: the restoration of the 13th Century Chapter House; the creation of a new cloister gallery; and an increased focus on sending ‘the cathedral’ out into the community, as well as welcoming people in.

Chapter House cloister gallery
Summer party at Outer Down

“The generous recurrent grants from Allchurches Trust, 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.” Jill Taylor, Director of Development, Exeter Cathedral

A particular focus for this year’s award will be vital restoration 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’ to bring comfort to those experiencing homelessness, the cathedral’s ‘Cloister Club’ children’s group, and many other volunteer groups.

The Allchurches Trust grant will help to fund improvements to the Chapter House, including a proposed glass inner porch, renewed underfloor heating and better lighting.

The Very Revd Jonathan Greener, said: “A glass inner porch will provide a much needed heat and sound barrier, enabling us to open the large 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 will also include essential specialist cleaning and repair of the medieval ceiling, and conservation of important early 14th Century paintings which are currently disguised behind late 20th Century sculptures.

Chapter House ceiling
Chapter House cloister gallery

“As the Mother Church of the Diocese of Exeter, it’s the role of our cathedral to be here for the community – the whole community – of Devon. Allchurches Trust helps us to do this, 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.” The Dean of Exeter

A recent archaeological investigation of the cloister garden has revealed structures of the cathedral’s 14th Century cloister walk to guide the design of a proposed new cloister gallery. Such like the Chapter House improvements, the new cloister gallery is designed to make the Cathedral a more open and accessible hub for the local community.

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.

Allchurches Trust Grants Officer, Paul Playford, said: “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.”

Cloisters archaeological dig
Three people working at the cloisters archaeological dig