Cathedrals Strapped for Cash

Chester Cathedral, U.K., by Mike Kniec/Flickr •

By John Martin

Leaders of nearly two-thirds of England’s cathedrals admit to having money worries, a BBC survey has found. Of leaders at 38 cathedrals responding, 26 said they were “worried” or “very worried” about the future. Grants from central church funds for historic buildings last year ran to £8.3 million, which is insufficient to meet needs.

Of the 42 Anglican cathedrals in England, 38 are Grade I listed and expensive to maintain. Some have daily running costs of £4,000. Cathedrals face a continuing challenge to strike a balance between keeping their building as a spiritual space and raising large sums for care of their fabric.

In some cities, cathedrals are the largest public buildings and can be used for concerts, lectures, and banquets. Few have endowments and it means they look for income from hiring out their spaces.

Southwark Cathedral in London has been running a conference center since 2000.

“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,” said the Very Rev. Andrew Nunn, dean of Southwark Cathedral.

The study found that:

  • 8 cathedrals charge for entry
  • 3 increased the fee in the last year
  • 20 percent of income is from donations
  • 9 percent of income is from commercial use

The Very Rev. Christopher Armstrong, dean of Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire, is among those “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,” Armstrong said. “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.”

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