Page 3, 19th December 2008

19th December 2008
Page 3
Page 3, 19th December 2008 — Financial crisis forces review of cathedral project

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Financial crisis forces review of cathedral project


WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL Officials are reviewing the second phase of restoration works in order to cut costs in response to the global fmancial crisis.

Christina White, the director of the Friends of Westminster Cathedral, said construction work at the cathedral has gone far better than expected. There have been no unforeseen restoration works in the first phase of work on the Cathedral and no unexpected problems have cropped up. The first phase mainly consisted of repairing the brickwork in three of the Cathedral's four domes. Scaffoldings and "cherrypickers" were installed to enable workmen to repair the fragile brickwork.

As they prepare for the second phase of the works — which involves updating the cathedral's turn-of-the-century electrical system and drains — Cathedral officials are reviewing the needs in order to see whether money can be saved.

Miss White said: "Fr Christopher Tuckwell, the Cathedral administrator, is mindful of people's more straitened circumstances and certain aspects of the plans have changed."

Cardinal Cormac MurphyO'Connor launched the £3 million appeal in January and the Friends of Westminster Cathedral have managed to reach the halfway mark, having raised El 5 million. Sir Roy Strong, a patron of the fundraising efforts, and Simon Callow have been active in his fundraising, but the worsening economy has affected fundraising efforts.

The Cardinal's appeal was launched after surveyors inspected the Cathedral for the first time in decades and found serious structural damage. Leaks had crept through the domes and the mortar holding the bricks together had crumbled and loosened.

The dire state of the Cathedral's electrical system became evident to officials when the lighting system failed and the sound system faltered last year, just before the Cathedral's Christmas Celebration.

Exposed wiring has been described as unsightly and dangerous. The Cathedral is heated by a vast underground system which is outmoded.

Westminster Cathedral has over 30,000 visitors every month. John Francis Bentley. the Victorian architect, designed the Cathedral, which was paid for entirely by voluntary donations. It took eight years to build and was consecrated in 1903. It is a Grade 1listed building and has been described by the Cardinal as "one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture and Byzantine art in the world".

The work on the Cathedral is expected to last for several years and should preserve the building for half a century.

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