by Angus Macdonald LIVERPOOL'S Metropolitan Cathedral has been awarded £500,000 for conservation work to its crypt the largest individual grant made this year under a £5.4 million package of funding for urgent repairs and conservation to England's historic cathedrals announced this week by English Heritage.
Under the deal the second phase of a programme of state aid agreed by the government last year four other Catholic cathedrals will also benefit. Westminster Cathedral will get £ 162,000, Plymouth Cathedral £95,000 over two years, Portsmouth Cathedral 125,000 and Northampton Cathedral £ 22,250.
The money will be made available over the next three years to 33 historic Anglican and Catholic cathedrals throughout England. Of the Anglican cathedrals to benifit from the cash, Salisbury will receive 1870,000 over three years and Ely £690,000 over two years.
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, chair of English Heritage, making the announcement of the awards this week, said: "These substantial grants. in addition to the £2 million announced last October, will help this important part of the nation's heritage to continue in good repair for the worship, appreciation and pleasure of present and future generations."
At Liverpool Cathedral, most of the £500,000 grant will go towards structural repairs to the podium on which the 1967 circular cathedral stands, and on waterproofing the famous marble crypt designed in the 1930s by Sir Edwin Lutyens, architect of Imperial New Delhi.
"The government's help is very welcome," said Mgr Peter Cookson, administrator of the cathedral. "In the past there did seem to be some confusion among people as to why other monuments and listed buildings were given help, but cathedrals were not. That has changed now, and it enables us to complete some maintenance projects whilst raising money for others."
There has been little government support for cathedrals previously because of a reluctance on the part of cathedral authorities to agree to English Heritage terms requiring them to seek permission for future building programmes, but these misgivings have now been overcome.
Lutyens was commissioned by the Catholic archdiocese of Liverpool in the 1930s to design a huge cathedral to rival St Peter's in Rome. Escalating costs after the war forced the abandonment of the project, however, and the crypt was the only part of the project to be completed. A great model of Lutyens' complete design for the cathedral is on display in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.
In the 1960s Sir Frederick Gibberd was commissioned to build the present, much smaller circular cathedral in a modern style alongside Lutyens' crypt. He linked the two buildings by a piazza which extends over the flat roof of the crypt, and it is this piazza-roof which is now in need of repair.
The bulk of the English Heritage grant will be used to make the roof watertight and repair the parapet walls, though a samll part of the money will also be used to restore an abstract painting by Ceri Richards currently hanging in the Gibberd Cathedral.